Top Chefs of Virginia: Fausett, Farrell, Gallaher

by Patrick Evans-Hylton | Posted: Oct 25, 2014 | Updated: May 11, 2015

Comments: 1 Comment

Virginia is America’s first food region, an early amalgamation of food and foodways from Native Americans, the English colonists, and an Afro-Caribbean influence.

Over the years some food traditions have remained, but even those have had a facelift or two, adapting to modern palates and the country getting a true sense of place in the world’s cuisine scene.

At the forefront of flavors are the kitchen artists, the Top Chefs of Virginia. From time-to-time we’ll chat with some of these tall toques about what inspires them, and why they chose to create their craft in the commonwealth.

This is part of a continuing series. Grab a napkin, you’re going to be drooling soon.

Austin Fausett. Courtesy Photo.

Austin Fausett. Courtesy Photo.


Trummer’s on Main
7134 Main St., Clifton

It’s been a long road between Chef Austin Fausett’s culinary school in Fond Du Lac, Wisc. and Clifton, a quaint hamlet about 25 miles west of Washington D.C.

He’s cooked at Town Hall in San Francisco, Craft Bar in New York City, and a Michelin star restaurant in Vienna, Austria, with Cedric Maupillier at Michel Richard Central in Washington, D.C. and Patrick O’Connell at Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va.

“I really learned a lot there about hospitality as well as cooking Virginia farm-to-table cuisine.”

It’s the rich agricultural heritage of the state that drives the creative American cuisine on the menu at Chef Austin’s Trummer’s on Main.

“Our Nibble Green Farms Rabbit Ragout is quickly becoming a signature item,” he says. “The dish features blue hubbard squash agnolotti, a type of stuffed pasta similar to ravioli, roasted carrots, chanterelle mushrooms, and port and balsamic reduction.

It’s a delectable dish that was inspired by cooking locally and my grandmother’s own rabbit stew.”

It’s the type of cuisine that landed Trummer’s on Main in the Washingtonian’s 100 Best Restaurants of 2013 and Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2013.

Chef Austin also represented the state, along with other culinary professionals, in September at the Virginia Rising Star Chef’s Dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. A similar dinner to benefit the James Beard Foundation was also held at Trummer’s in October.

You are on the forefront of food, what trends do you see?

Well for one, there are no more restaurants that you can’t go to in a pair of blue jeans. The overwhelming trend is to be more healthy, vegetable driven and casual.

You cook for others all the time; what do you cook for yourself?

Vegetarian food, because I see it as a challenge to craft a whole meal around vegetables. It’s very rewarding because while we are working in restaurants we are surrounded by so many rich foods. It’s a treat to eat light, I usually eat very little and get full pretty quickly.

What is a cookbook or food-related books folks should be reading?

Heritage by Sean Brock; The Blackberry Farms Cookbook by Sam Beall; Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dorenberg and Karen Page; Cooking with the Seasons by Jean-Louis Palladin

What are five things in your home refrigerator right now?

Appalachian cheese; beer and summer sausage from my home state, Wisconsin; Linden Vineyards (Virginia) rose’; my wife’s cookies and pumpkin bread; a batch of chili that my wife and I made.

What’s a favorite Virginia wine? A favorite Virginia beer?

There are so many producers of delicious Virginia wine. Paradise Springs Winery’s Viognier is a crisp, refreshing white wine made right here in Clifton. But I also like Linden, RdV, Rappahannock Cellars, Early Mountain and Barboursville. It’s really tough to pick just one.

I also like drinking Port City Brewing Company’s pilsner. There are also some really good Virginia hard ciders out there too.

Rappahannock River Oysters

Rappahannock River Oysters

Let’s talk food in Virginia.

There are so many delicious things from Virginia.

Virginia peanuts for sure, country ham from Edwards, Rappahannock River Oysters, Martin’s Angus Beef, Border Springs lamb, and heritage breed pigs from Spring House Farms are just a few.

For me there can only be one way: that is to feature the bounty that Virginia has to offer. It’s our responsibility as chefs and restaurateurs to highlight these ingredients and make sure that we are sourcing responsibly.

There is a community here in Clifton and in Northern Virginia as whole that’s about preserving what’s already here; it’s about growing our communities reach, and trying to tighten our restaurants footprint.

We are so lucky to have so many great resources right here in Virginia. We try to create something really special for our guests.

I always am trying to learn and try new things, while I am doing that I am always looking to tighten the radius of where I can source our food.

If we can grow our own zucchini squash, eggplant, peppers, strawberries, and lettuce, our food is going to taste that much more authentic. It tastes best here because it is from here

What makes Virginia’s cuisine scene special?

It has a lot of history and so many influences.

If you’ve never spent a day in Thomas Jefferson’s garden in Monticello, you have to go. It gives you a whole new perspective on what it is to be foodie.


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Michael Farrell. Photo by Patrick Evans-Hylton.

Michael Farrell. Photo by Patrick Evans-Hylton.


Still Worldly Eclectic Tapas
450 Court St., Portsmouth


Bardo Edibles and Elixers
430 W. 21st St., Norfolk

A few years ago, 2012 to be exact, Chef Michael Farrell found himself cooking in a most interesting place.

Outdoors. On a stage. Surrounded by chefs from restaurants far-and-wide, some also seen on the Food Network.

Part of Team Chesapeake Bay, Chef Mike, along with two other Coastal Virginia culinary professionals, was representing Virginia at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas.

Mike placed, as did another chef on the team. One won – claiming the Best Chef in the World title.

But Chef Mike is use to awards: first place in the 2010 Million Dollar Rockfish Challenge, first place in the 2012 Sysco Chopped Challenge, first place in the 2014 Norfolk Sister City PassPort competition (which gave him the chance to cook with the chef at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C.)

It’s been a long journey from bussing tables at age 16 in August, 1990 at the now closed Bienville Grill in Norfolk. Along the way, he’s worked his way up to being executive chef and part owner of two of the region’s award winning restaurants.

“I have been in the industry for 24 years now and I still am learning new things everyday,” he says.

Still, in Olde Towne Portsmouth, is in a basement of a historic building and has an Old School speakeasy vibe. It’s known for classic cocktails and worldly food in small plates using fresh and local ingredients.

“Folks love our bacon-wrapped tater tots with chili ketchup and the slow-roasted housemade duck confit tacos,” says Chef Mike. “The menu changes at least three times a year so we can keep it fresh and exciting.”

Of note: the menu is also 98 percent gluten free.

Bardo, in Norfolk’s Ghent, features Pacific Rim-style tapas.

“The design is a minimalist approach with bright colors, soothing wood accents and open spaces complete with an open kitchen where you can talk to the chefs as we prepare your food.”

Look for Wagyu Beef Carpaccio served with a cooking stone and the perennial favorite, Dip Sum Doughnuts.

You are on the forefront of food, what trends do you see?

As far as food trends there will always be “the next big thing” that everyone will gravitate towards and use to the extreme; I’m growing tired of that.

What I am excited for is that local sustainable farming and fishing is still on the forefront and I think that Americans on the whole are realizing that all the junk that is in processed foods is killing them. Lets keep food nice and simple and use wholesome local ingredients from suppliers we can trust.

You cook for others all the time; what do you cook for yourself?

I am a big fan of one pot cooking. I love making stews and being able to nosh on it the rest of the week. I am also a sucker for just simple barbequed chicken on my grill.

What is a cookbook or food-related books folks should be reading?

The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman; Pickle, Pigs & Whiskey by John Currence.

What are five things in your home refrigerator right now?

Bold Rock cider from Virginia; Sriracha; Claussen pickles; Duke’s mayonnaise; Gulden’s spicy brown mustard; leftover pizza – oh wait, that was for breakfast.

Edwards Virginia Ham

Edwards Virginia Ham

What’s a favorite Virginia wine? A favorite Virginia beer?

I am a big fan of Chatham Vineyards on the Eastern Shore; it’s a great small family run winery producing some good juice.

I love what Kevin O’Connor is doing at his O’Connor Brewing Co. in Norfolk. He was one of the first guys doing it here in our area and I am a fan of his Green Can and Great Dismal Black IPA.

Let’s talk food in Virginia

I have been a Virginian since 1982 and I absolutely love this state.

Being a chef here is awesome. We have such abundance of great fresh and local seafood right in our backyard.

I love being able to use Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, Lynnhaven oysters, Surry peanuts, Eastern Shore Hayman sweet potatoes, fresh shrimp, local farms for vegetables and my absolute favorite, Edwards Surryano ham.

What makes Virginia’s cuisine scene special?

At either of my restaurants, if a dish is comprised of local ingredients it is usually a top seller on my menu because people appreciate these ingredients.

Across the state, I do believe we have amazingly talented chefs here and that people are starting to recognize that.


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Bryant Gallaher. Courtesy Photo.

Bryant Gallaher. Courtesy Photo.


Bryant Gallaher’s Chef Services
Virginia Beach

For folks in these parts, there is more than one familiar face on the 13th season of the FOX television cooking competition show Hell’s Kitchen.

Virginia Beach native Bryant Gallaher dodges challenges from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey on the program – one of 12 aspiring chefs to vie for fame and fortune.

He’s also appeared on morning shows on television and radio and been featured in newspaper and other print-media articles.

But Chef Bryant is no flash-in-the-pan. He’s been cooking for 16 years, working his way up the culinary ladder at some of the premier restaurants and hotels in the Hampton Rods area.

“My mother inspired me to cook at a very young age,” he says. “I would be in the kitchen on the chair, stretching to reach the counter to stir and taste.”

After 11 years of being in the field, Chef Bryant made a move – from kitchen to classroom.

“I decided to get an official education, and the Culinary Institute of Virginia gave them that, and much more.”

He is using his knowledge and experience to enhance the dining experience of others with his personal chef services in Coastal Virginia.

“I offer a wide variety of meals accommodating the guest needs, making a personalized experience,” he says.

The service is offered for parties and special events, not just for residents, but for visitors alike, whether it is for a business luncheon or cocktail reception, or for family gatherings like weddings, reunions, or long weekends at a beach house rental.

Look for specialties in French, Italian and Southern regional cuisines, like Chef Bryant’s Pan-Seared Blackened Prawns with Herb Aioli, Charred Corn Salsa and Lemon Scented Frisée.

You are on the forefront of food, what trends do you see?

I think that we will continue to see chefs crafting creative menus to match dietary concerns from folks, whether it be gluten-free food or others. I also think the concept of offering small plates with lots of flavor will continue.

You cook for others all the time; what do you cook for yourself?

I love to cook grilled, dry-rubbed ribeye steak and enjoy it along with collard greens and herb-roasted fingerling potatoes.

What is a cookbook or food-related books folks should be reading?

What Einstein Told His Cook by Robert Wolke

What are five things in your home refrigerator right now?

Dijon mustard; yellow onions; kefir; Hooters hot wing sauce; cheddar cheese

What’s a favorite Virginia wine? A favorite Virginia beer?

I love beer, especially dark beers, from O’Connor Brewing Co. in Norfolk, and, being a Virginia Beach native, favor our local winery, Pungo Ridge Winery.

Let’s talk food in Virginia.

I was born and raised in Virginia Beach and have lived here my whole life. I grew up eating traditional southern cuisine and have ended up cooking it as well.

There are many things to love in Virginia, and our cuisine is varied, but in Coastal Virginia, the focus is on fresh seafood and southern-style food. A favorite ingredient of mine is the peanut-fed Berkshire pork; I love it.

Supporting local farmers is very important to me because we are buying our food from just down the road, and not from across the country. That translates to fresher, which means it tastes better.

Note: there are two other Virginia chefs with television cooking competition show charisma this year too:

Chef Christopher Kyler, executive chef and owner of Kyler’s A+ Catering in Stafford has appeared on the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen and Next Food Network Star.

Chef Joy Crump, executive chef and co-owner of Foode in Fredericksburg is on the current season of Bravo’s Top Chef. 

Patrick Evans-HyltonPatrick Evans-Hylton, a Johnson & Wales University trained chef, is a Norfolk, Va.-based food journalist, historian and educator. His work has appeared in print, television, radio and social media since 1995. Evans-Hylton calls his cookbook, Dishing Up Virginia, his love letter to the state’s foods and foodways. He blogs at


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