Food and wine

Summer Foraging with Clay Morris

Story by Victoria Peace

In January 2022, I took one of Clay Morris’ winter foraging classes at the Salamander Resort & Spa. I came away from the experience amazed at how much the natural world had to offer during a time of year that I usually consider to be extremely barren. You can read the article I wrote about my experience and about Morris’ background here.

Six months later when I was invited to participate in one of Morris’ summer foraging classes, I jumped at the opportunity. I couldn’t wait to see what new and exciting foods and flavors came along with the changing of the seasons.

Morris starts each one of his foraging classes with a walk through the grounds of the Salamander Resort & Spa. He likes to teach his classes there because it’s a very diverse habitat in a small area. Morris explained that the months of June and July are what he calls “the vegetable stage” of the year. All of the plants that emerged in the spring have started producing flowers, berries, pods, and vegetables.

The Walk 

On our summer foraging walk, we discovered a wide variety of plants and trees including black locust, milkweed, chicory, wild grapes, wild berries, overcup, poke, walnut trees, sumac, coneflowers, cattails, juniper, and heirloom pear trees. Their qualities ranged from utilitarian to delicious  — and often, encompassed both the same time.

One plant that Morris identified as seamlessly blending utility and culinary value is overcup. Its large leaves curl in such a way that they create a cup which acts as a condenser for any mist in the air. When water collects in these cups, it provides a place for hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to stay hydrated. Morris likes to blanch overcup leaves and use them to make a roulade, which he proudly calls “his version of sushi.”

Cattails are another plant Morris pointed out which serves a wide variety of functions. Native Americans used their fluff to stuff diapers and their leaves to make mats. However, the stem of the cattail can also be eaten —  it tastes similar to a cucumber. After our walk, we were able to sample both raw cattail stem and a cattail root and tomato relish that Morris prepared.

On our walk, Morris underscored the importance of being in tune with seasonal and environmental changes in order to know the right time to harvest different plants. Windows of opportunities can be small, and once you miss them, they’re gone. For example, every bit of the milkweed plant can be eaten if prepared properly. However, it has to be harvested within a very specific timeframe. When the plant first starts to emerge in the spring, the stems can be eaten like asparagus. Before it flowers, it looks a bit like broccoli rabe, and can be sautéed or dried and stored for later use. The pods can be blanched and taste similar to okra, however, you have to make sure you catch them when they are very small or else they are poisonous. And finally, when the flower opens, it can be made into a cordial for a refreshing summer drink.

The Tasting

After our walk, we had the chance to sample a milkweed flower cordial along with a variety of other dishes made with foraged ingredients. Morris prepares these dishes in advance so participants can better understand how the flavors and textures of foraged food can fit into our typical everyday diet. His goal is not just to make foraged food edible, but delicious.

The menu that I sampled included lots of picked items, which are traditional for both the season and the region we live in. There were pickled, spice keeper pears, pickled wild onion flowers, and pickled mini pine cones. The pickled mini pine cones were probably my favorite bite of the day because their flavor was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. It was simultaneously, tangy, minty, and spicy, with just a hint of sweetness.

For more savory offerings, Morris prepared fermented grape leaves filled with creole rice and a lambs quarters callaloo. The callaloo, a traditional Caribbean dish, was inspired by one of Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s recipes. Onwuachi will be hosting The Family Reunion at Salamander later this month. Lambs quarters is a fast-growing weed which can be used as a spinach substitute and has a significantly less slimy texture when cooked. 

As discussed previously, every part of the milkweed plant can be eaten at the right time of year. During our class, the pods were in season. Morris prepared them by lightly frying them in a tempura batter. They tasted similar to okra and had a fascinating texture — the inside was almost like mozzarella cheese. 

While the milkweed pods were a more adventurous snack, Morris also created a beautiful charcuterie spread so that guests could make their own canapés using mix of familiar and foreign ingredients. Garlic mustard pesto, cattail root relish, wild greens aioli, and fermented elderberry capers could all be paired with more typical meats and cheeses to create unique bites. “Play with it, there’s no wrong way to do it,” Morris encouraged.

I am already looking forward to seeing what Morris has in store for his fall classes — the focus will be on roots and nuts. To sign up, please visit Salamander Resort & Spa’s website. To be put on Morris’ mailing list, please reach out to jclaymorris@hotmail.com. ML

Rising Culinary Star Joins L’Auberge Provençale

Written by Bill Kent
Photos Courtesy of L’Auberge Provençale

“This is as good as it gets,” Chef Stephen Burke says as he takes off for the fruit orchard a few steps from L’Auberge Provençale’s kitchen. “I am literally that kid in a candy shop.”

At 25, Burke is the youngest executive chef in the venerable Inn’s 40-year history, and he has big plans for himself and for the region’s legendary farm-to-table restaurant.

“I’m cooking bright, light, and even more flavorful,” he says as he rushes about the orchard, examining the ripening fruit for possible inclusion in the evening’s tasting menu. “Farm-to-table is in my blood. I grew up in Broad Run surrounded by farms. As early as I can remember, I wanted to hop the fence, go into the fields, and get into all kinds of trouble.”

His most vivid childhood memories are of helping cook the evening meal with his family. “We got just about everything we needed from the farms around us. I learned to taste as we cooked and to really appreciate the changes that happen from the preparation all the way up to the serving of the dish. I couldn’t believe how good it all was. I mean, I was thrilled.”

Burke has a special appreciation for vegetables. “I know proteins. I like proteins. Guests have a pretty good idea of what proteins should taste like so the best thing most of the time is to keep things simple. But what really impresses me, what really challenges me, what I really love more than anything else, is what I can do with vegetables.”

You heard right: Chef Burke was the kid who ate his vegetables — without prompting. “When they’ve been grown [as] beautifully as we grow them at the Inn, with care, attention, and a little bit of pride; when you can get them fresh off the tree, off the vine, right out of the ground; and when you can take the time to bring all the flavors forward — it’s the best.”

Chef Burke’s love of purposely grown ingredients has inspired him to be creative, even from an early age. “One side of my family is British so a special meal for us was lamb vindaloo or chicken tikka masala. When I cook for myself or for friends, I use Thai and Korean flavors — not so much hot, but warm, so it rounds out what you’re tasting and adds just enough heat to make you happy as it goes down.”

Left: Pork schnitzel with pickled apple and cabbage, calvados jam, and pickled mustard seeds. Right: Layered mousse cake with plum glee, fig, and TCHO gelato.

 As a child, when Burke’s family went out to eat, he begged to be taken into the restaurants’ kitchens. “Going into a kitchen charged me up. As soon as I was old enough to show I knew how to chop an onion, I began to get jobs in kitchens. I staged and worked fill-in jobs anywhere I could.”

Even so, it never occurred to him to take a formal cooking course. “I thought I should get a degree in biology from the community college, but I kept getting calls to fill in, so after three years of missing classes and learning cuisine in some of the best restaurants in Napa, I had to say goodbye to [the degree].”

He had good reason. At the age of 21, after filling in for every position at Litchfield’s, a wine country destination restaurant in the whistlestop town of Bodega, California, his tenure as temporary executive chef became permanent. “It was California cuisine, but with a lot of Spanish and Portuguese influences. I just had a blast there.”

At Litchfield’s, Burke also met the woman who is now his wife. “Kelly was a server and, no, it wasn’t one of those front-of-the-house/back-of-the-house romances. Things couldn’t be better,” he says.

Kelly came with him when he returned to Virginia to work as a sous chef at Three Blacksmiths and The Inn at Little Washington, finally arriving at L’Auberge Provençale a few months before people began to talk about a “pandemic.”

American-born Celeste Borel created L’Auberge Provençale with her husband, Chef Alain Borel, in an 18th-century farmhouse surveyed by George Washington. She says the COVID-19 lockdown came with unexpected silver linings for the business. “We had an uptick in our in-room dining. We had to close briefly but when we were told we could do outdoor dining, we moved the tables outside. So many people were just tired of being inside that we became very busy. You wouldn’t believe it but 2021 was our best spring ever.”

On January 1, 2022, Burke stepped up to become executive chef. “It was like that moment when you take your place at the family table. Not the head of the table — that will always belong to Chef Alain. But, with Celeste managing the Inn, and [the Borel’s] son Christian as the sommelier, I felt like I was home again.”

Burke says that the Inn’s dozen or so local farmers never fail to inspire him. “We get our truffles from Virginia Truffle in Rixeyville when they’re in season — I put them on our flatbread with fruit from the orchard as a really, really intense variation on the Hawaiian pizza. We must have steak frites on the menu — we’re a French country inn and our guests expect it. But we get this delicious Wagyu beef from Ovoka Farm right down the road in Paris, Virginia, that is so good it’s enough to make me stop eating vegetables — for a little while.”

Left: Butternut tortellini-jambon Serrano with fried sage, Virginia truffle, and balsamico. Right: Slow-roasted beets with greens, bleu cheese, hazelnut, dates, sherry, and feuille de brick. 

Nearly all the vegetables on the menu are grown in the Inn’s garden. Though Chef Burke is not a vegetarian, he wants the Inn’s menu to be even more welcoming for guests with special diets, allergies, or preferences. “I have two tasting menus and one is vegetarian and gluten free. I have fun with both,” Burke emphasizes. 

One of his most creative gluten free/vegetarian offerings is his tomato and wild berry tartar. “People are used to tartars of beef or other proteins. We make one that has that wonderful red color with tomatoes and berries and put [it] in [a] puffed pastry shell with a buttermilk sorbet. If you can’t have dairy, we can work around that.” 

Another specialty is Burke’s citrus-cured Hamachi. “Hamachi is yellowtail used in sushi. [It has] a hint of the flavor of ceviche. [The dish] comes with a cucumber-jalapeno coulis and melon. The flavors don’t sound like they would go together but they absolutely do.”

A dish in development for the fall will be a cassoulet, similar to what Burke had when he visited the French castle town of Carcassonne. “I want to make two versions: one with lamb or something really rich and comforting, and a vegetarian version that delivers the same feeling but tastes just a little bit different.”

With Kelly serving in the dining room and Chef Burke’s younger brother Andrew as chef de partie and garde manger, Chef Burke wants to put down roots and start a family. He’s currently looking for a house to buy. Days off are spent hiking with Kelly in and around the Shenandoah Valley. 

In five to ten years he sees himself opening his own restaurant, and, if all goes well, shooting for a Michelin star. 

“But I don’t think about the future that much because I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do with the best people helping out and loving it as much as I do, in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It doesn’t get any better,” Burke says. ML

L’Auberge Provençale is located at 13630 Lord Fairfax Hwy, White Post, Virginia, 22620. For more information call (540) 837-1375 or visit laubergeprovencale.com. 

This article first appeared in the August 2022 Issue.

Celebrity Chef Event Celebrates Diversity In Hospitality

CELEBRITY CHEF EVENT CELEBRATES DIVERSITY IN HOSPITALITY

Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Chef Kwame Onwuachi teamed up with FOOD & WINE to host the first-of-its-kind experience at Salamander Resort & Spa

Photo Credit: Clay Williams

(Middleburg, VA, August 25, 2021) – This past weekend, Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Meredith Corporation’s FOOD & WINE hosted the inaugural Family Reunion presented by chef and author Kwame Onwuachi. 

The immersive, multi-day event celebrated diversity in the hospitality community through cooking classes and demonstrations, wine tastings and dinners, and thought-provoking panel discussions with world-class chefs, sommeliers, and industry leaders including Carla Hall, Rodney Scott, Padma Lakshmi, Gregory Gourdet, Mashama Bailey, Andre Fowles, and Pierre Thiam.

The Family Reunion took place from August 19 – 22, 2021 at Johnson’s Five-Star-rated Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, located in the heart of the state’s wine country and just one hour from Washington, D.C. Throughout the weekend, speakers, chefs, and sommeliers delved closely into the Black cooking traditions that have shaped cuisine in America, shared lessons from the past, and focused on building a better and more inclusive future. Virginia Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Rémy Martin, while Dave Chappelle and Estelle also made special appearances. 

Held predominantly outdoors on Salamander Resort’s 340 sprawling acreage, attendees also had an opportunity to enjoy musical performances and indulge in several recreational activities like ziplining, ax throwing, and horseback riding led by celebrity participants. A limited attendance created opportunities for social distancing and appropriate safety protocols. 

The Family Reunion benefited from Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to help end childhood hunger, while the event is also helping to create a mentorship and scholarship program to foster diversity in the hospitality industry.

The event enjoys sponsorship support from Rémy Martin, Lexus, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Brett Johnson Collection, United Airlines, Sheila Johnson Collection, Williams-Sonoma, Visit Loudoun, Resy and American Express, the Town of Middleburg, McBride Sisters Collection, and McEnearney Associates.

The Family Reunion is part of the expanding FOOD & WINE Classic network of events anchored by the celebrated FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, a mainstay in the culinary world for over three decades, as well as the recently launched FOOD & WINE Classic at Home virtual events, among others.


About Salamander Hotels & Resorts

Salamander Hotels & Resorts delivers comfortable luxury through signature, immersive experiences which enrich the lives of guests. The company is privately owned and operated, and based in Middleburg, VA, just outside Washington, D.C. Founded by entrepreneur Sheila Johnson in 2005, it has a luxury portfolio featuring the Forbes Five-Star Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a 340-acre equestrian-inspired property near Washington, D.C.; Half Moon, the iconic luxury resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which features three distinct resort experiences including the newly opened Eclipse; The Henderson, a 170-room grand beach resort in Destin, FL; Hotel Bennett, a spectacular 179-room hotel in Charleston, SC, overlooking the city’s historic Marion Square; and Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay, which hosts the PGA TOUR’s Valspar Championship each year on its Copperhead Course. All Salamander properties are members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. For additional information visit www.SalamanderHotels.com.

About Salamander Resort & Spa

Salamander Resort & Spa is a Forbes Five-Star rated and LEED Green Building Certified resort situated on 340 picturesque acres in the historic village of Middleburg, Va. Located only one hour from Washington, D.C. and just 35 minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport, the resort is designed to respect the architectural traditions of Virginia’s countryside with 168 spacious rooms and suites that blend into their natural environment. Resort Owner Sheila C. Johnson has created a luxurious destination featuring an award-winning 23,000-square-foot spa, Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill, the Gold Cup Wine Bar, a dedicated Cooking Studio, a chef-inspired Culinary Garden as well as the adventurous Tree Top Zip Tour. The resort includes a full-service Equestrian Center with unique programming, a 22-stall stable, and a riding arena. All spa, culinary and equestrian facilities, and programs are open to the community. The resort is also developing Residences at Salamander, which offers 49 luxury, built-for-sale homes within a pristine landscape. For more information, visit www.SalamanderResort.com.

About FOOD & WINE

FOOD & WINE is the ultimate authority on the best of what’s new in food, drink, travel, design, and entertaining. FOOD & WINE has an extensive social media following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. FOOD & WINE includes a monthly magazine in print and digital; a website, foodandwine.com; a books division; plus newsletters, clubs, events, dinnerware, cookware, and more. At FOOD & WINE, we inspire and empower our wine and food-obsessed community to eat, drink, entertain and travel better—every day and everywhere. FOOD & WINE is part of Meredith Corp.’s (NYSE: MDP: Meredith.com) portfolio of best-in-class brands.

Contact: Matt Owen, VP of Communications, Salamander Hotels & Resorts

mowen@salamanderhotels.com | 843-991-0213

A Diverse Group Of Top Chefs Are Taking On Horse Country

A Diverse Group Of Top Chefs Are Taking On Horse Country 

The question is will Kwame Onwuachi’s Family Reunion be a mainstay? 

Written by: Victoria Peace

Chef Kwame Onwuachi. Photo by Storm Santos.

Pepper soup, jerk chicken, brown-stewed snapper, coconut-braised beef cheek, whole-hog barbeque. These are a few of the dishes that guests will be able to savor at The Family Reunion — a first-of-its-kind, multiday culinary event celebrating diversity in the hospitality industry.

Running from August 19 – 22, The Family Reunion will be held on the beautiful grounds of Salamander Resort & Spa and presented by acclaimed chef and author Kwame Onwuachi, a James Beard Award Winner, a 30 under 30 honoree by both Zagat and Forbes, and a member of Time’s 100 Next List. His critically acclaimed memoir, “Notes From A Young Black Chef,” is currently in the process of being made into a film. Inspired by the family reunions of his ancestors and the culinary and cultural heritage of his Afro-Caribbean roots, the event brings together dozens of industry leaders for panel discussions, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, and exclusive dinners.

Onwuachi selected Salamander for the location of The Family Reunion after befriending CEO Sheila Johnson on a retreat in the Bahamas. “Once I went to her resort, I really saw the vision of it,” he said. “This could be the place for one of the most important food conferences that we’ve seen — and we will see. Something that can really celebrate the voices of the inaudible.”

According to Onwuachi, the event is particularly relevant because “you can’t talk about the landscape of American cuisine without talking about the Black experience.” However, “the Black experience isn’t monolithic – there are many different directions to go in; Filipino, Southern, West African, Senagalese, Jamaican, St. Lucian — there are so many different types of food happening all across the board which contributes to what makes this event really special.”

Centered around amplifying and celebrating Black and Brown voices, The Family Reunion fills a major void in the hospitality industry. “Coming to events like these helps guests understand that the Black experience is so rich, diverse, and beautiful in its essence — it doesn’t need to be changed or refined,” he said. “It has inspired a globe.” Even if they cannot attend The Family Reunion, Onwuachi said that customers can support diversity in dining by carefully choosing where they spend their dollars and by remembering that “the power is in the pocket.” They should strive to cross into different zip codes, to seek out chefs of different ethnicities and different types of cuisine. And, they shouldn’t be afraid to change up their circle from time to time.

Onwuachi’s father, the son of a prominent Nigerian professor and leader in the Pan-African- ism movement, and an architect by trade, separated from his mother when Onwuachi was three years old. Growing up, Onwuachi spent most of his childhood living with his sister and his mother in the Bronx. After losing her job as an accountant, his mother made a living by running her own catering business. In his memoir, Onwuachi recalls that some of his earliest memories involve helping her prepare meals in the tiny kitchen of their apartment.

Dishes by Chef Dawn. Courtesy of Franky Collective

Onwuachi struggled to stay out of trouble at school and faced a series of disciplinary actions and expulsions that culminated in his mother sending him to live with his grandfather in Nigeria for two years. While this felt like a punishment at first, Onwuachi now looks back on this time as being particularly formative both personally, and later on professionally, in his development as a chef. However, when he arrived back in New York from Nigeria, he eventually fell back into his old patterns. Despite graduating high school and being accepted into college, he was expelled from Bridgeport University during his first year for drug-related offenses.

After this expulsion, Onwuachi moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his mother. It was there that he got his first job in the culinary industry, working as a chef on a boat tasked with cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The conditions were suboptimal and the work was challenging, but cooking for the crew allowed him to start to develop his own culinary voice. Following the end of his contract, Onwuachi moved back to New York where he landed a job waiting tables at Tom Colicchio’s renowned restaurant, Craft. However, his entrepreneurial spirit soon drove him to leave this position to grow his catering business, Coterie Catering. This was a huge leap of faith, and to get the start-up funds needed to even launch the service, he went car to car selling candy on the subway. But the risk paid off — he gradually expanded his clientele and started catering to increasingly larger events.

Dishes by Chef Dawn. Courtesy of Franky Collective

In 2012, Onwuachi was accepted into the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, working long night shifts at a Mexican restaurant and catering to pay for his tuition. During his time at the Institute, he was selected for an extremely competitive externship at the three Michelin star restaurant Per Se, and upon graduating was hired as a line cook at Eleven Madison Park.

Onwuachi’s much-anticipated first restaurant, The Shaw Bijou, closed its doors after just three months in business. However, that setback was a precursor to the opening of Kith and Kin in 2017. Located on D.C.’s waterfront, the restaurant received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its innovative Afro-Caribbean cuisine inspired by Onwuachi’s family roots.

In 2020, Onwuachi resigned his position as executive chef at Kith and Kin and is currently serving as the executive producer at Food & Wine magazine. Based out of Los Angeles, he still spends a lot of his time on the East Coast. Leading up to The Family Reunion, he will be in residence at Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill at Salamander Resort for two weeks.

In addition to celebrating the traditions of the past and the stars of the present, The Family Reunion will also showcase the next generation of diverse food and wine professionals who are moving the industry forward. Onwuachi is particularly looking forward to the panel discussion, “Old Guard to New Trope: Passing the Torch.” It will feature a conversation between esteemed chef, restaurateur, author, and James Beard Award winner Alexander Smalls, and four talented “up and coming” chefs.

One of these chefs is former Olympian, Top- Chef Finalist, and soon-to-be restaurateur, Dawn Burrell. Burrell started her culinary journey in 2008 after retiring from a successful athletic career as a long jumper with the U.S. National Track and Field Team. After attending culinary school and working in catering, she landed a job at Uchi Houston to further hone her skills. This subsequently led to a sous-chef position at its award-winning sister restaurant Uchiko in Austin. Burrell describes her time at the Hei Hospitality Group, the owner of these two establishments, as “where she grew up.”

Before the pandemic hit, Burrell was working as the executive chef at the modern Southern restaurant, Kulture. However, in the months following the lockdown, she began a prepared meal service with some of her closest friends aptly named “Pivot.” She was also featured on season 18 of Top Chef where she reached the final stage of the competition.

“I’ve always been into comfort food,” Burrell said. “Comfort food from every culture is soul-soothing. It’s the cuisine of your grandparents — everyone that has a grandparent that cooks knows what type of feeling that their food invokes.”

When developing her signature “global comfort” style, Burrell set out to learn more about where her family was from and why her own grandmother cooked the way she did. She discovered that before migrating to Philadelphia, her family was farming in Virginia. Even after their move north, the cooking style of her grandmother and her grandmother’s sisters stayed the same, and had many parallels to the “farm to table” style that is popular today.“

“I took this as an educational opportunity to learn about food, and more specifically to learn about food in my family,” Burrell said. “And that’s how I developed my own personal cooking style.”

In December 2021, Burrell will be opening her own restaurant in Houston called Late August. Housed in an old Sears building, the name pays homage to the Sears catalog that used to come out that time of year, and the nostalgic presence that it has for the children of the seventies and eighties. The food will stay true to her signature “global comfort” style with some influences from different cuisines of the African diaspora.

During the first night of The Family Reunion, Burrell and the other three up-and-coming chefs will be taking over four different restaurants in and around Middleburg. Burrell will be cooking at Thaiverse. The menu isn’t finalized yet, however, Burrell’s preliminary ideas include a coconut braised beef cheek with charred allium relish, carrots, and summer squash, a pan-seared scallop with braised collard greens, a ham hock dashi, and a Creole XO sauce. And, in honor of one of grandmother’s favorite dishes, peaches, and cream with kombu, smoked vanilla ice cream, and miso caramel.

“That’s my style — to take the most simple dishes and make them a little more interesting and elevated,” Burrell said.

Burrell is “excited about the connections that will transpire as a result of [The Family Reunion]. We have never had an event like this. I am really looking forward to being a part of it.”

While The Family Reunion is set to feature many talented Black and Brown chefs, it is important to remember that the focus will extend beyond the kitchen. Journalists, hospitality professionals, food media professionals, bakers, and sommeliers will also be coming together as part of the event.

Nadine Brown is one of three sommeliers who will be leading the Black-owned wine tasting at Delaplane Cellars on August 20. Brown worked as a social worker in Boston for a short period of time before moving to D.C. in 1996. She took what she thought would be a temporary job hostessing while looking for another position as a social worker, but ultimately ended up “falling in love with the [restaurant] industry.”

Her passion for wine began when she started reading about its history. From chemistry to geology, to the ancient Romans and Greeks, to the role of wine in the Church, “there are a lot of great rabbit holes to explore.”

After earning certifications from both the court of master sommelier and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, Brown spent over 14 years as the wine director and sommelier of Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill. She has been recognized by Star Chefs as a rising star sommelier and is a board member of the Restaurant Association that represents the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. She is also the founder of At Your Service, where she offers wine education, events, and consulting.

During the pandemic, Brown took “a deep dive into social media” and was able to use technology to stay connected with the wine community online. She does virtual tastings, in addition to keeping up a robust Instagram presence of educational and engaging content for wine lovers of all different levels.

Brown noted that when it comes to wine, the conversation is still very Eurocentric. She stressed the importance of representation in what has traditionally been a predominantly white industry. “One of the best feelings is when I go to a wine tasting or a big wine event and I get a little tap on my shoulder,” she said. “I’ll turn around and it’s a young African American wine professional and she says, ‘Oh my God, you don’t know me but I saw you in the Washingtonian in 2004 and that was the first time I thought about the possibility of going into the wine industry.’”

She is excited to participate in The Family Reunion because “there are a lot of great people doing great things that we don’t always hear about.” She is looking forward to “recognizing the people that have been representing a long time while also showcasing what’s next in the industry.”

According to Onwuachi, at The Family Reunion, there will truly be “something for everyone.” Delicious food and wine will be paired with thought-provoking discussions, and there will even be recreational activities reflecting the local character of Middleburg. As one of the activities, attendees will have the chance to participate in an equestrian trot with Onwuachi through the grounds of Salamander. Onwuachi fell in love with horses at a young age but had limited opportunities to ride them growing up in the Bronx. When Onwuachi visited Salamander and saw how central equestrian activities are to their program and the region, he knew he wanted to incorporate them into the event. Onwuachi’s favorite horse at Salamander is Odin, and he will most likely be riding him during the trail ride.

Onwuachi at Salamandar Resort. Photo by Eric Stein.

Onwuachi would love to make The Family Reunion an annual occurrence, but he is going to “see how this year goes and take it one step at a time.” He is excited to bring this event to Middleburg and cannot wait for people to “invite people as friends, and have them leave as family.” ML

For more information on The Family Reunion and to learn how to purchase tickets, visit https://www.salamanderhotels.com/familyreunion/

This article first appeared in the August 2021 Issue.

X