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015 – Melissa Close-Hart, Junction Restaurant

015 – Melissa Close-Hart, Junction Restaurant


11846638_1134587746607477_7827747681294854603_nWhat’s it like to be a female chef in an industry that doesn’t always recognize women with awards and accolades? What are some of the assumptions made about women chefs with regard to how they run a kitchen, prepare their food, present themselves?

Melissa Close-Hart is a celebrated chef with decades of experience under her belt. The only woman on Charlottesville’s “Mount Rushmore” of chefs, Melissa has been nominated four times as a James Beard semi-finalist during her tenure as Executive Chef of Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards. More times than any male chef in this area combined. What does she think of the Time magazine “Gods of Food” debacle that occurred a few years back? Do women just not pursue accolades? Or is that a generalization? In 2015, why do folks still assume men are line cooks and women are pastry chefs?

We discuss this at length during the episode as well as what it feels like to leave a kitchen after 14 years to pursue the dream of building something you can call your own. Her new venture, Junction, will open early next year in Belmont and feature cuisine with a Tex-Mex flavor, a tequila bar, and a much bigger dining room.

What one-word piece of advice does she give to young chefs just starting out to gain invaluable experience? How did working at McDonald’s prepare her for fine dining? What’s it like to not only change kitchens, but your whole cuisine? Why are Duran Duran and Kraft Mac and Cheese some of her favorite things? All this and more in Episode 15. I had a fantastic time talking with “Mama Mel” and I know you’ll enjoy it.

This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.

SHOW NOTES – Links to items discussed within the episode:


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  • Lisa


    Just found Edacious and am already a big fan! Melissa Close-Hart is one of my favorite chefs and a super cool chick. Totally down to earth yet such a cooking star. We are lucky to have her here in Charlottesville!

    • Jenée Libby


      Lisa, I am so sorry for the delay! It’s been crazy around here with the new website and everything, then we went on vacation 🙂 THANK YOU SO MUCH for your kind words. Melissa is indeed a terrific chef, and her conversation remains one of my favorites. I’m glad to say that because of it, we have become good friends. She is such a treasure. Thanks for listening! If you have any time to leave a review for the podcast, I’d be forever grateful. Here is the link:
      Just click “View in iTunes” then “Ratings and Reviews”. Cheers!