Open as of November 2015, Vagabond is the latest Richmond dining spot to showcase the talents of Head Chef Owen Lane, who is also a partner in the venture. We stopped in one afternoon to chat with Owen and Adam Stull, Vagabond’s Beverage Director, to talk about inspiration and post-shift cocktails, as well as get a sneak peek at the Vagabond & Belle Isle Cocktail Dinner coming up on July 26th. (Tickets are still available, by the way.)
Tell us about yourselves...
Owen Lane, Partner and Head Chef: I’ve been cooking for 20 years from Boulder, CO to Richmond and in-between. Inspiration for my cooking comes from all sorts of different things, from something my mother used to make and how I can twist her recipes to a BBQ at someone’s house. Inspiration never comes when you might think - it just happens. It can’t be forced.
Adam Stull, Beverage Director: I have been bartending for about 15 years. I am originally from Philadelphia. I moved to Richmond a little over three years ago. Other than Vagabond, I have worked as part of the opening staff of Postbellum.
Tell us about Vagabond...
OL: The name says it all! I’ve had to privilege of working with many cuisines, as most chefs do. The Vagabond concept opens the door to explore so many of those cuisines. In the space we have three distinct areas that can provide a different experience each time you visit. These spaces set the stage for our menu.
AS: I try to write a cocktail menu that is diverse enough to keep up with the wide array of food Owen creates. The huge space and high volume of people we serve has to allow for cocktails that, while still created with care, can be served efficiently.
Are there particular styles of food/cocktail or ingredients that you like working with?
OL: I like to work with lesser-known cuts - offal, game, local produce. It’s fun to have a direct link to the farmers, to take their hard work and prepare it for folks.
AS: I love to make a weekly trip to Grand Mart and try to find ingredients that others aren't using.
How do you approach a smaller, private event like the Vagabond & Belle Isle Cocktail Dinner?
OL: It gives me the chance to be more refined. I put even more focus from pan to plate.
AS: There are so many fun things I can do that I wouldn’t dare try during a busy night. At a smaller event it gives me a bit more room to explore techniques that are too time consuming to use in the setting of a high volume dinner service.
How do you put the menu together?
OL: Food often comes first. I use what’s available seasonally through our local farms. I take those ingredients and put them together in a way that complements the whole menu.
AS: I tried to pair off of what I think will go best with his dishes. We sit down and talk it out and make a few tweaks to each other's offerings.
What’s different about pairing food with cocktails, versus wine or beer?
OL: Walking is key. We like to see everyone walk out. But really, we have the control of these flavor profiles and we can pair the cocktail with the food. With wine and beer, we’re pairing the food with what someone outside of our organization has created.
AS: That’s right - cocktails are more versatile, as I have a bit more control over the contents and I can really create something that pairs perfectly with a dish.
What can you tell us about the Vagabond/Belle Isle event on the 26th?
AS: We are excited to have everyone here. This is something Owen and I have been talking about for a while. I’m so happy we've finally had time to put this together with the great staff at Belle Isle Craft Spirits. Tickets are available here.
What do you like to drink to unwind after a big event?
OL: It changes with the seasons. Most of the time, something cold. Right now, I wouldn’t turn down a Rosé.
AS: After work I'm pretty traditional. A shot of good whiskey to sip on and a cold beer helps me wind down after a busy night.