Cooking has been a lifelong pursuit for Loretta Lane-Montano, but it has only been her profession for the last five years. When Pescados China Street opened in July, Lane-Montano (pictured) transitioned from being a chef at its sister restaurant in Midlothian to executive chef at the Oregon Hill location (626 China St., 644-3474). Pescados serves Latin/Caribbean fusion, a cooking style with which Lane, whose background is in French cuisine, is not entirely familiar. However, that hasn't stopped her from creating popular menu items, such as the char-grilled Lemongrass Lobster, served with a grilled sweet potato and a fennel-and-watermelon salad. "I think the thing I enjoy most is seeing other people's reactions and just getting feedback and hearing that someone enjoyed something that I made," she says.
A native of Canada, Lane-Montano has a degree in sociology from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. She moved to Virginia to work at New Dominion, a school for troubled youths in Cumberland County. She met her husband, Ben Montano, in Farmville. She often cooked for events at the school, and one day someone asked her why she wasn't pursuing a culinary profession. Lane-Montano began to wonder the same thing. "I was kind of at a point where I didn't want to keep doing what I was doing," she says. "So I started researching culinary schools and ended up going to the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan." Before culinary school, she had been mostly self-taught, from reading numerous cookbooks.
After graduating from the institute in 2005, Lane-Montano spent three months in France working as an intern at two restaurants. Upon her return to the United States, she spent more than three years working in Richmond-area restaurants, including Bacchus in the Fan, Osaka Sushi & Steak on River Road, and the since-closed Edible Garden in Goochland County. A co-worker at Edible Garden told her about an opening at Pescados in Midlothian. Lane-Montano says she is well supported by her kitchen crew: Jason Beck, Dan Owen, Craig Perkinson, Will Perry and Brad Sullivan. "They make it fun to come to work."
Chef/owner Todd Manley and co-owner Bob Windsor have been "really supportive, too, of letting me have a lot of creative freedom and just backing me up and letting me do my thing," she adds.