In 2002 I moved from Richmond to Charleston, SC mostly to be near my mother.  I took over management of a stunning restaurant that had not, in its 18 months open, found its footing.

One night a waiter came to me and said that the guests on table 12 wanted to say hi, as they were from Richmond and had been fans of The Frog and the Redneck.

Sweetheart that I am, I go to the table to greet them.  There were two couples, one of which lived in Richmond and the other in Charleston.  Turns out the Charleston couple had moved from Richmond eight years prior and loved living in Charleston.  I innocently asked if they missed Richmond.  “Not at all!” they practically shouted in unison.  “Richmond is an angry town.”

I was shocked.  Not by the idea that they thought Richmond was generally angry, but that it struck such a chord with me.  I too sensed a lot of anger in Richmond, even before moving here in ‘93 and certainly afterwards.  People advised me not to open The Frog in Richmond saying it was a town that would never accept new ideas and certainly not a restaurant located downtown with such a silly name.  So many statements began or ended with “This is Richmond” that I banned it from use.

But there was indeed tangible anger.  Anger over the way things had changed, over local, state and national politics, over allowing women into VMI, putting Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue, desecrating downtown with the 6th Street Marketplace and of course losing the Civil War.

Fast forward 20 years.  We’ve since moved to Las Vegas and the suburbs of Chicago and then back to Richmond.  Twice.  I’m often asked if I think Richmond has changed over the years?  Is it a ‘nicer’ place?  Hell yes!  It’s alive, with youth:  Bicycles, kids in strollers, dogs on leashes with grins on their faces, interesting restaurants, really good coffee shops and nicer folks.  How on earth….does that happen?

Well, cultural dilution, for one thing.  Back in the 90’s it seems that every week you read in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that some new company was moving its headquarters to Richmond.  That meant new blood, new ideas.  Come-heres as they were known.  And, speaking of the newspaper….

How awful.

Whoever coined the phrase ‘wrong side of history’ must have been talking about the Times-Disgrace.  Women’s rights, gay rights, racial equality, smoking in restaurants, Fox News politics and, if you’re old enough, bussing.  Remember “massive resistance”?  Does the name James Kilpatrick strike a familiar?  Or Ross McKenzie?  The first time I saw him in person I was stunned that he looked, well, normal.  I expected at the very least a lizard tongue and scales.

Such an embarrassment the Times-Dispatch was that the first time I was interviewed, back in 1993, the reporter, Charles Slack, started by saying that the news side of the paper had absolutely nothing to do with the editorial side.  It became an oft repeated refrain from their reporters.

Thankfully the RTD as we knew it is all but dead.  Perhaps the new ownership will help it to reflect the community instead of trying to make it into its image.

So, the answer is yes.  Even if I’ve forgotten the question.


One Response to “Don’t Be Angry at Me Richmond, Please!”

  1. Malcolm Banton writes:

    Dear Chef,
    Not related to your recent post but I was logging old culinary vids and watching the Julia Child Master Chefs episode. F&R blasted back from the past. Looked up the menu and there it was just like ’97.
    Enjoyed many great meals back in the day and honestly hadn’t heard much since the Vegas deal.
    Good to hear you’re still around, uncompromising and still full of piss & vinegar.
    Best regards,

    April 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm