When it comes to creativity, music is inspiration for everyone, but the crossover in music and restaurant creativity seems especially pronounced in Richmond.
Perhaps it’s a credit to Richmond’s vibrant dining scene, and VCU’s award-winning music program, but pop your head into any restaurant kitchen in Richmond and you’re likely to find a few local musicians at the stove. Chat up members of a local band after a show, and you’ll hear a work history peppered with Richmond dining hot spots.
Yes, in Richmond, the players in music and restaurants are often one and the same. One feeds the other, creating a dynamic local music and restaurant scene.
And Fall Line Fest has to put together an elite panel of experts on both these topics for an informal conversation about the overlap in music and dining creativity.
Chef Jason Alley grew up in Pulaski, Virginia, where agriculture was the mainstay of the local economy. At the age of four he industriously started cooking and never really stopped, helping out his busy family by whipping up Southern comfort food. His first professional food job was at St. Louis-based fast food chain Hardee’s. Alley resolved to go to college, but he soon realized that he was not well-suited to the world of academia and left to work at a Quaker-owned orchard near Harrisonburg, Virginia.
But fate intervened when a group of friends washing dishes at Harrisonburg Country Club encouraged him to join them. Soon he started prepping food and watching the chefs cook, and it wasn’t long before he had worked his way up to lead cook. He left shortly after for Champaign, Illinois and while his now-wife studied at the University of Illinois, he took a sous chef position at a bar and grill and was quickly promoted to executive chef.
The couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked at 1848 House, Blue Ridge Grill, and ENO. But his native state beckoned and Alley returned, this time to Richmond, for a position at the Europa Café and Tapas Bar, where he met his soon-to-be restaurant partner Chris Chandler. Alley and Chandler opened Comfort in 2002. Alley’s menu sings with a passion for the kind of Southern comfort-mfood classics you could picture on checkered picnic blankets in some idyllic painting. In 2011, with the help of partners Michele Jones and Ry Marchant, Jason opened his second restaurant, Pasture. Pasture features local products prepared simply, with a focus on small plates and current interpretations of classic Southern flavors. Alley is currently busy planning his second Pasture location in nearby Charlottesville, VA—and when he’s not cooking, playing in his Spanglish Ramones cover band, Los Ramones.
Bio coming soon
Constantine Giavos is a musician and graphic designer who studied at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Focusing on projects in the music industry and identity, branding and creative consulting for restaurants, Giavos has channeled his upbringing in the restaurant business to create unique concepts and immersive restaurant experiences. In Richmond alone, he has created concepts for Stella’s and The Continental Westhampton, consulting on menus, branding, creative directing, and designing collateral. Constantine has also contributed identity work for The Daily, Galley, Pearl and the downtown nightclub, Society. Giavos has worked with Def Jam/Island Records, Scion A/V and Atlantic Records art directing projects and designing album covers for label artists. Constantine has drummed for rapper Spank Rock, and as a teenager shared the stage with the likes of INXS, Foreigner, The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He currently DJ’s, collaborating regularly on parties with Need Supply Co. His work has been hand selected by Spike Lee and Steven Heller of The New York Times, and published in Taschen Books, and VICE Magazine.
Nate Gutierrez was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM. His family moved to Virginia when he was in junior high and he spent several years living between Santa Fe and Virginia ever since before moving to Richmond in 1993 for VCU for an Art History major with painting minor degree.
Ever since he’s been in Richmond, he played in a band, and since restaurant schedules are perfect for that, he worked in restaurants. He’s worked at Friendly’s, 3rd Street Diner, Cinema & Drafthouse (Movie Cafe), Hole in the Wall, Ipanema, Zeus Gallery, Seven Hills Market, etc. He’s worked in many kitchens and spanned a lot of cookin’ genres.He also delivered mushrooms for Rudy for a long while in RVA and Charlottesville, where he “got to witness the prissy-ass prima donna rock star chef attitude first-hand.”
In the early 2000s, he moved back to Santa Fe and worked in more restaurants and somehow ended up with a calendar editor and local music columnist gig for Pasatiempo, the weekly arts paper. He got married in Santa Fe and then moved back to Richmond to “a horrible and miserable job at Media General as a pre-press guy for the Times-Dispatch.” One day he decided that he could no longer stand it and quit to open a taco cart at VCU. That went great so he opened a taco take-out place at the same time and it proved to be too much to handle. He closed both to see if his hair would grow back and to focus on my kids. Then he met Hamooda and partnered with him to open Don’t Look Back in Carytown.
Michele Jones grew up in Virginia Beach working in such illustrious restaurants as Dairy Queen (17th street, the good one) and the Kona Kai coffee shop. These jobs led to a love for working with the public and not much else. After high school she went on to work at The Dumbwaiter for chef Sydney Meers where she learned proper wine service and a love for pimento cheese. While attending college at VCU she refined her beer and chili slinging skills at the Texas Wisconsin Border Cafe and Dots Back Inn. Urged by her dad to get a real job she began working on films and in retail but she is a restaurant person at heart. She managed a few awesome restaurants in the Hampton Roads area( Cora, Stove and Comfort) and then returned to Richmond to open Pasture with Jason Alley and Ry Marchant. She is currently working on a book she will probably never finish and a second Pasture in Charlottesville with Jason Alley.