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Crispy pork with roasted corn, baby squash and edamame Photo by Isaac Harrell
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Chilled peach with peach mousse and meringue Photo by Isaac Harrell
It's finally coming together. After 21 months of culinary school, five years of working with high-profile chefs in New York City and additional experience in Richmond, Mike Yavorsky is this close to turning Belmont Food Shop into a 22-seat restaurant, two years after starting the catering and carryout company with business partner Steven Ruscitti.
City Council voted in June to approve the special use of the property as a restaurant. Oddly enough, given the building's history as a grocery store and then a bakery, the property is in a residential zone. A reminder of the grocery, which opened in 1923 and later had the name Belmont Food Store, is the antique wooden walk-in Frigidaire, with a compartment on top where ice blocks used to be stored.
Originally from Petersburg, Yavorsky came to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied biology and graduated in 1996. While at VCU, he worked in the kitchen at a Chili's branch, then left with two co-workers who opened The Bottom Line in Shockoe Bottom. He had previously envisioned a career in science, but cooking proved to be a stronger draw. After graduating, he worked at None Such Place (currently home to Julep's) with head chef Michael Hall, who now owns M Bistro, to find out whether he was cut out for a career as a chef.
He continued on that path at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., then sought a range of experiences with Manhattan chefs such as Floyd Cardoz at Tabla, Daniel Boulud at db Bistro Moderne and Café Boulud, Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallsé, and Scott Bryan of Veritas. After returning to Richmond, Yavorsky worked with Leslie Stack of Complete Catering and then Hall again at the Berkeley Hotel. He also spent time as a server at the former 1 North Belmont and at Can Can Brasserie. "It helped me understand what a server goes through and what guests want," he says.
Set to open in early September, Belmont Food Shop will build its menu around what's in season. Sample dishes include roast-chicken with gnocchi; Chesapeake flounder with summer beans; and braised lamb with eggplant and chickpea panisse. "I like to cook," Yavorksy says. "If I can do that for myself, be my own boss — that's the American dream."