The Southwest Virginia Higher Ed Center is pleased to announce that Travis Milton will be a guest speaker during the 4th Annual Great Winter Soup Cook off on February 11, 2017. Hailing from rural Southwestern Virginia, Travis Milton spent his childhood in a true Appalachian kitchen, learning the proper method for shucking beans, preserving produce through canning, and planting gardens – all under the tutelage of his great (and great-great) grandparents. A reverence for the traditions and heritage of southern kitchens was instilled in Milton from his earliest days spent behind the counter of the Village, a restaurant in Castlewood, Virginia owned by his great grandparents.
Milton moved to Richmond to attend school and started cooking on his own in his early teens, initially just as a way to make money doing something familiar. Soon, jobs in the kitchen became more than just income, and before long Travis was staging in kitchens across the country, like Todd Gray’s Equinox in D.C. and Chris Cosentino’s Incanto in San Francisco. When Milton joined his friend and fellow Virginian Jason Alley to work as Chef de Cuisine at Comfort in Richmond, he realized his ability to combine the memories of his family’s kitchen with the techniques of his mentors, creating composed and modern Appalachian dishes.
It was with these two culinary traditions in mind that Milton left Comfort and embarked on his dream of a genuine Appalachian restaurant. What started as an idea for one restaurant evolved to three: Milton’s at the Western Front in Saint Paul, Virginia and Shovel and Pick and Simply Grand just minutes away in Bristol, Virginia. His first Appalachian-centric restaurant, Milton’s at the Western Front, will open in spring 2017 as a meat-and-three. The menu will not only include staunchly Appalachian items such as Chili Buns and Pepperoni Rolls, but will also feature dishes like Hungarian Goulash, reflecting the rich food culture of the Eastern European immigrants who settled in Southwestern Virginia.
Shovel and Pick and Simply Grand, opening in the one location in fall 2017, will represent both aspects of Milton’s background (‘both sides of my brain,’ as he puts it) by showcasing the rustic, soulful, comfort food of his childhood on one side of the building, and a more modern take on those traditions on the other — essentially, two restaurants working in tandem under one roof. The restaurants will share more than a location, as locally-sourced
ingredients will be at the forefront of all the menus, from over 65 different varieties of indigenous beans (his favorite being Greasy beans) to rare varieties of squash, originally cultivated by Native Americans.
Outside his restaurants, Milton is at the forefront of the grassroots effort working to preserve the heritage of the Appalachia kitchen. A conversation among fellow Appalachian chefs on a Facebook thread turned into the creation of the Appalachian Food Summit, where Milton serves on the Board of Directors. He also works to highlight the rich history of the area in conjunction with the Central Appalachian Food Heritage Project, the Clinch River Valley Initiative, and the Virginia Food Heritage Project. He also works in the Slow Meat program with Slow Food which is about taking meat away as the focus of the plate and making it very vegetarian friendly.
Milton spends much of his free time traveling to Virginia farms and fostering relationships with purveyors across the state. When not in the kitchen, his favorite place to be is sitting on his front porch, enjoying his whiskey collection, and listening to Whitney Houston.
Milton will be discussing his vision for bringing back our culinary culture to Appalachia by revitalizing the region that nurtured his own culinary heritage. He will welcome discussion and questions.
Other free cooking related classes during the Great Winter Soup Cook Off will include:
Alan Dodson. A Chef 4 You: “How to MakeThe World’s Best New England Clam Chowder” 11:30
Abigail Hutchinson, Executive Chef Olde Farm Golf Club and Culinary Instructor at University of Tennessee: “ Fun with Knives” which will include demonstrating the many kinds proper knife cuts and how to use your knife to create fancy fruit and veggie garnishes 12:30
Admission to classes during the event is free with a soup cook off ticket.