We were recently honored to join a small group to experience Shoemakers American Grille in Lynchburg, Virginia, where James Beard Award Winner Chef Edwin Scholly is on a mission much higher than elevating culinary excellence. Along with Culinary Director Mena Hughes of the Central Virginia Community College Culinary Arts Program, he’s dedicated to creating a training environment for culinary and tourism professionals on a grander scale while delivering immersive experiences for customers.
In a state with plenty of coastline it’s telling that Virginia Living Magazine touts Shoemakers American Grille as the Best Seafood in the state. From the sparkling flavor of the candied-bacon-wrapped scallop amuse bouche to the sharp mix of chili oil and kaffir tuna tartar, Chef Scholly shows his deft handling of seafood.
All four courses of the meal were paired with selections from Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards providing a number of revelatory flavor combinations. I’m not often fond of multiple wines over the course of a meal but I’m newly convinced of the value of properly serving the right wine with different flavors. The sparkling rose expertly matched the sweetness of the scallops and candied bacon while the dryer Chardonnay reserve allowed the coconut and lemongrass of the tuna tartar to shine.
Virginia Living has also awarded Shoemakers as the Best Steak in the state and the beef tenderloin ‘Rossini’ convinced us they were right. Served along with a Tuscan kale spaetzle and harissa honey carrots, the inch thick steak could have been cut with a fork. We especially appreciated Chef Sholly’s nod to his German heritage in an innovative take on the noodles. When matched with the unique Petit Verdot from Pippin Hill, the magical piquancy stimulated both taste buds and conversation with our table companions.
Finishing up the service with a deconstructed goat cheesecake drizzled with wild blueberry honey jam was inspired as it provided exactly the sort of light touch for the end of the evening. When paired perfectly with the Petit Manseng from Pippin Hill, the blend of gingersnap crust and crisp wine balanced the light sweetness of the jam.
As important as the experience is the effort to share his knowledge with a new generation. As he explained, “Who am I as a chef to go somewhere else to eat and complain about it if I don’t teach about it for the future?” It’s a thoughtful approach coordinated with an intentional effort to make menus and dishes based on the freshest of ingredients available. “We use no frozen products. Everything is made fresh for the day. So, you have to make use of what you have.”
While working closely with Mena Hughes of CVCC, he makes a point to pass on his 30+ years of experience. “I tell them, this is not just a job. It’s a lifestyle. Is that what you want?” And the four associates in culinary arts from CVCC who worked on this inaugural event are all in. Ryan, Skylar, Eli and Sameria all loved the project and explained it was “an experience of a lifetime.” One wants to own her own bakery “to help make a difference in her community”. Another has big dreams to run a catering operation and “build a European food quality that includes low sugar, high quality ingredients.”
Together, they are well on the way to building a destination where one can come to dine and build the next generation. We will most definitely be back and encourage you to do the same! And check out our next article about the location in the historic Craddock Terry Hotel. In the meantime, you can learn more about Shoemakers at https://shoemakersdining.com/