When Owen Lane and his friends graduated from high school in Erie, Penn., in 1995, nothing made more sense to them than to pack up and move to Boulder, Colo. All avid snowboarders, Lane and his friends wanted the opportunity to shred at some of the best resorts in the country.
"We would get back from snowboarding all day and I'd find myself cooking for eight guys," Lane says. "It's around then that my friends started saying, ‘Owen, you should really think about doing this for a living.' "
Lane had his first job in the food business as a dishwasher when he was just 14, and once in Boulder, he eventually worked his way up the ranks to a line cook position at the Mediterranean Restaurant ("Med"). The youngest employee at the restaurant, Lane became immersed in the 15-chef kitchen with a diverse group of co-workers.
"It seems that no one living in Boulder is actually from Boulder," he says. "Working with so many people from so many different backgrounds is what made my time at the Med one of my most crucial learning experiences."
After five years at the Med and a quick stint at the Art Institute of Colorado's Culinary Program, Lane moved to Richmond in 2003. Two years later, he landed his first executive chef position at Helen's, where he met his fiancée, Tiffany Gellner.
"Tiff was bartending at Starlite while I was at Helen's," he says. "I used to take my desserts over for her to try and we really hit it off."
Lane and Gellner worked at a variety of Richmond restaurants until deciding in 2010 that it was time to try something new. In August of this year, the couple unveiled The Magpie, their quaint gastropub at 1301 W. Leigh St. in Richmond's Carver neighborhood, serving distinctive dishes in a comfortable atmosphere.
The Magpie's relatively small space (seating 34 people within a 1,200-square-foot space) enables Lane and Gellner to stay focused on their work and allow customers to interact with one another on a more personal level. "We've actually witnessed people who are sitting at different tables giving each other samples of their food," Gellner says.
The biggest change for Lane with overseeing the Magpie is that he no longer needs to show a menu to anyone for approval. As a result, Lane's creative thinking is expressed in such dishes as corn-dog lobster tail and cast-iron seared antelope.
"I knew that if we were going to open something in Richmond," he says, "the menu really had to stand out."