Back of House / Front of House / Podcast / Restaurateurs

021 – Travis Milton, Shovel & Pick

021 – Travis Milton, Shovel & Pick



TravisMiltonChef Travis Milton is a passionate spokesman for Appalachia and its cuisine. Growing up in Wise County he spent many hated hours picking beans before realizing early on in his cooking career he wanted to bring that food’s sensibility to the world. Mostly vegetables. Meats as a flavoring agent and garnish. Comforting tastes and textures. Honest food. Everything grown from heritage seeds which translates into all the food on your plate tasting just a bit better than it would otherwise.

It’s a story I’ve heard often. A chef works many jobs before realizing the kitchen is home. Travis traveled this path including a stint as a DJ where his handle was Miltie The Albino Love Machine. But while repairing race cars and teaching kids, he realized his true calling. And we reap the benefits. His Appalachian restaurant Shovel and Pick opens in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition in Spring 2016.

Why are greasy beans and sour corn the foundation for all the rest of his cuisine? What are they and why are they important? As he says, for a long time the Appalachian region hasn’t had a voice. And now it has one through its food.  Beans have dignity. Food can act as a symbol of Appalachia’s endurance and sacrifice, which is why the jar of his family’s heritage beans is one of his most prized possessions.

Why was it important to Travis to serve the Appalachian Food Summit Dinner as a “Fancy Ass Piccadilly”?  Why did the Introduction to Cornbread Nation 3 make him break down? Why do Sheepshead fish have people teeth? How do you prepare bear for eating? Why does he carry a Macho Man Randy Savage card in his wallet? All this and more in Episode 21.

Travis is the real deal folks. He plans to source 80% of the produce for his restaurant from his heritage seeds grown on the family farm in Wise County. And yes, you can hear the anticipation for that night’s dinner in my voice. If you’re not hungry after this one, you might be dead. And if you don’t laugh, I know you’re a corpse. Funny funny dude. And a great storyteller. Enjoy!

SHOW NOTES – Links to items discussed within the episode:

  • Style Weekly – excellent profile of Chef Milton by Brandon Fox.
  • The Shack – Chef Ian Boden creates Southern food that defies definition. Glamorous yet completely accessible. And of course, tasty as hell. One of the best in VA if not the nation.
  • The Third Plate by Dan Barber. Field notes on the future of food.
  • Smoke & Pickles – Chef Ed Lee creates Southern food which includes his Korean roots.
  • Heritage – Chef Sean Brock’s award-winning, gorgeous tome of Southern favorites. Coffee table worthy!
  • Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken – Ronni Lundy’s classic collection of Southern food. And my personal favorite.
  • Corn Bread Nation 3 – Food of the Mountain South – Excellent collection of food writing presented by the fine folks of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
  • The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery – just one of a huge series of cookbooks preserving Southern foodways. A classic!

This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.


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