Channeling my inner Ginsberg and Caesar Flickerman whilst evoking Graham Chapman's suit (circa "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life"), I aimed to open the 5th Annual Elbys – with its heavenly "en Blanc" theme – by composing a Sunday sermon that reflects how RVA's F&B scene is defining our city. These people move me ... the least I can do is try to move them right back.
Yes, it marinated for a season, but the ink only began to flow last week. And once it came, oh baby, it spilled like holy water. Late or no, I'm still grateful for every visit from the muse.
And since I believe that objects are imbued with energy: a special shout to artist Michael Birch-Pierce and his students in the VCUarts Department of Fashion for turning a blank-slate white canvas into a glittering power suit. From the second I slipped it on, I felt transformed into a superhero emcee. Kudos as well to Mahri Jones of Parlor Salon, Hunter Rhoades of Richmond Balance and Jaylin Ramer of Space Cowboy Boots for coiffing, sculpting and cobbling me from head to abs to toe. Chefs have their sous ... these are my cats for hair, ass and shoes.
Listen to Jason deliver his sermon...
THE TEXT ...
Amazing Grace Street
For the 5th Annual Elbys, a reading from the Howl-y Scripture
I saw the best chefs of my generation employed by madness, striving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the double shift at dawn looking for a bahn mi and Twix,
Oh wait. Before the sermon.
Let us pray.
Oh Mighty Spirit of Open Table,
Blessed Deity behind the misspells,
puns and malapropisms on blue and green kitchen tape.
(I’m looking at you, Duck Conflict and Homey Mustard.)
Dear Higher Power who tempts us to split checks,
modify the menu or hold tables for incomplete parties.
Take us to a Heaven of fair Yelp Reviews,
on-time produce deliveries and semi-sober wine reps.
Lord of kimchi and tartare, gravlax and foie gras,
let us pray that Croxton never runs out of oysters
Brothers and Sisters, Mamas and Papas, Chefs, Sous,
Reps, Preps, All Peeps Front and Back of the house,
Millers, Distillers, Makers, Bakers, Drink Shakers,
Masters of Muddlers, Proofers of Crullers,
Raisers of Pork, Pullers of Cork,
Pushers of Brooms, Growers of Shrooms,
we come together, an industry in communion.
And like any kinfolk reunion, there’s always
some gnarly branches on that tree,
and more than a few juicy fruits.
And family tensions run hot.
I don’t expect Jason and Travis
takin selfies on the same spot.
Can I get an RVAmen?
This year was a doozy. Not 100% free from haters,
no-shows and pre-grated Parmesan with 8% saw dust.
We bid godspeed and fare-thee-well to the departed:
Estilo, Magpie, Mezzanine, Portrait House, Tastebuds,
Dixie Donuts, Aziza’s, Coppola’s, Nora’s, Beauregard’s,
Globehopper, Little Venice, Tiki Bob’s.
But those were just the lows in a year when the highs
were finger-lickin spicier than a bucket of Lee’s Famous thighs.
I spent a day in the life with Dale Reitzer.
I spent a night on the pass with Joe Sparatta and Pete Wells.
I partied with Lee Gregory and Mark Lewis in a hot tub
with a busty bartender who could make even T Leggett’s bar-spoon twirl.
I smuggled wine and weed into Mel Oza’s kitchen
so that he could cook bitchin escargots
to cure the munchies after Fire, Flour & Fork.
I talked mysticism and knishes at Perly’s with David Peterson
while Derek Rowe told us about happy life with kids and no booze.
On a night I thought I’d get silly with Owen Lane, I bonded stilly with Tiffany
Who by the way had one of the funniest Facebook posts ever:
Skeletor saying “Shutting the fuck up is gluten free. Add that to your diet.”
You don’t always take me seriously,
but how many of you bought houses from my hot Realtor wife?
I tell you this because the overlapping circle in all of this is simple: F&B.
Can I get an RVAmen?
UCI, Travel + Leisure, James Beard, Bo Bech,
Daniel Radcliffe, National Geographic, Southern Living
rolled through town and you know what they remember:
This is church.
And we are the congregation.
Hand made, sweat toiled
Hard cidered, soft boiled.
Brothers and sisters, there’s a hymn that comes to mind.
Amazing Grace … Street
What does a great city look like when it starts to wake up?
When affordable places to start badass enterprises explode in areas that were once sketchier than dollar sushi?
You are powerful beyond the table you set.
You bring attention to our region.
You inspire people to imagine the beauty
of what’s possible beyond this plate.
This year, I want you to imagine worthiness as mantra:
Wholesale, city-wide, bite-by-bite change.
Schools, parks, rapid transit, quality of life.
You are lifting Richmond from Capitol of How Bad it Was
to the Rebirthed Capitol of How to Evolve.
You have stripped down Confederacy to fed
(with a little racy) in there.
Can I get an RVAmen?
Omnipotent, All-Knowing Ruler of Suds,
please protect all of the beer in Scott’s Addition
and all of the tasting rooms and cideries, meaderies,
bakeries, Ginger juiceries, Stella’s groceries,
inland fisheries and ukulele and didgeridoo tuneries,
Holy Divine Maple & Pine Ramen Ruler,
Heavenly Father and Mamma Zu and the four Saisons
Eternal God Head who taketh away this Jersey boy’s hoagie
but giveth unto him JKOGI, Perly’s pierogi, and our Gentlemen Rogue-y.
In our lifetime, we can only hope to achieve
what those 3 wise men hath conquered –
Johnny, Jimmy and Jason … and Dale,
the Four Apostles.
And God is my Dutch & Co-pilot
and while the innocent aim skyward,
we, my friends, are Southbound.
Lo, and when we reach that Rancho T in the road,
we turn like Vagabonds with Owen’s tongs to darker Pastures
where the L’Opossum-bilities are infinite and on hellfire
in Le Petite Mort au Chocolat en Flambé.
Stroops, there it is.
We are Barrel Thiefs in the night
practicing the dark art of Curry Craft
as we danced with Amour and tasted fruit
from the forbidden Acacia tree,
Naked as an Onion
with the scent of Autumn Olive and Manakintowne.
Lord help us understand
how the hell is it packed at Maggiano's
when we could grab and go
The Dog & Pig
Show us the way
to your love and suds,
how can sinning be wrong
when the taps flow like paradise at Mekong?
Then why did you send King David
to open The Cask for me?
Julia ain’t Biblical
but she’ll cry Lamentations
as Secco makes Exodus from Carytown
to The Fan where glory be
free of demons and shitty chains
as you, the anointed,
stage pop-ups and make Richmond
the Korean jointed.
Because chefs may be Gods, but God is not a chef.
Because it he was, the Scripture would read…
And on the Seventh day,
he worked another goddamn double.
This may be the only time you go to church this year
because you’re the ones making brunch
for all the asshats who ask for
just yolks in their scramble
or no eggs but hollandaise is ok
and a side of ranch.
It is our nature
Say it with me.