In a story whose outline will be familiar to military spouses everywhere, a popular restaurant in Virginia Beach and Norfolk will lose its founding chef and co-owner.
Stockpot’s Anne Galante is moving to Japan.
Her husband is a pilot with the Navy, and he’d received word last November he might be leaving the country.
“I’ve known for a little while,” she said. “But I thought I had another few months.”
But timelines in the military are rarely a guarantee, and so Galante will leave town a little earlier than expected: Her last day at The Stockpot will be at the end of this week.
For nearly five years, The Stockpot has been a breakfast-and-lunch mainstay in Virginia Beach and more recently in downtown Norfolk -- a home to long-simmered soups, Turkish breakfasts, open-faced toasts and taste-test winning frittatas. And Galante has been a fixture in Hampton Roads dining stretching a back a decade more at spots like Terrapin, Pacifica and Leaping Lizard Cafe
But when she departs for Japan, she says, she’ll be leaving the place in good hands.
Though Galante has always been the face of the restaurant, fellow chef Patrick Edwards has been her business and culinary partner at The Stockpot from the start, and he’ll be taking over full duties and the other half of the restaurants’ ownership.
“I am divesting. Patrick is the sole owner of the Stockpot now. We were always 50-50, and he’s taking over my 50 percent,” Galante said. “That was a really tough decision for me. ... But in the military, we don’t know for sure we’re coming back.”
In the short run at least, Galante and Edwards say diners won’t notice much difference on their plates. Galante had already taken a step back from the line since getting the news in November, and the two restaurants had also started to each take on their own character under the lead chefs at each location.
“They’ve already been diverging even prior to Anne leaving,” Edwards said. “We found out the clientele was different. Some things people wanted in Virginia Beach, people in Norfolk could care less about. And vice versa.”
Both restaurants maintain the same basic menu, and the same commitment to simplicity and to showcasing the ingredients of the food.
But the original Virginia Beach location at 700 19th St. -- whose kitchen is run by former Eat: A Southern Bistro sous chef Paul Benton -- is located next to a gym, and so the guests often tend toward healthier fare and a whole bunch of smoothies. Specials also veer more traditional in Virginia Beach.
As for Norfolk? Norfolk likes comfort food and funny stuff.
That means meatloaf, and chicken and dumpling soup, and items that veer a little left of center. In response to local demand, the Norfolk Stockpot at 215 E Plume St. is starting a chicken and dumpling night on Tuesdays to go with their Wednesday ramen night. (Ramen in Virginia Beach happens on Monday.)
The Norfolk location will also host international menus the third Saturday of each month, according to the food obsessions of the various cooks in Stockpot’s kitchens. Norfolk chef Michelle Bui, who already spearheaded the ramen menus at both locations, held a Vietnamese-focused Lunar New Year menu on Jan. 25. Future dinners will include Peruvian and Palestinian.
Galante says she’s looking forward to learning from chefs in Japan, and has already picked up some tips from Hashi Chow chef Ross Riddle, who has spent a good deal of time in that country. But leaving The Stockpot will be difficult.
“I tell people I can cook anywhere, I can take that with me, and I’m excited for that. I’m excited about what I can learn in Japan -- whether at a farm or a plantation, or in a kitchen. But the thing I’ll miss the most is the connections I made. There’s nothing like it, that old-school diner counter service where the cook is right there. That’s going to be a huge absence in my life.”
She won’t be out of the country forever, but she also can’t guarantee that she’ll end up back in Hampton Roads: That’s just not how the Navy works. But she doesn’t rule out starting a restaurant again wherever she ends up, even as she plans to start a family.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, incredibly hard work. I’ve read enough memoirs from female chefs; you have to consider a family and the time off it requires," Galante said. "I don’t know what it’s gonna be for me, but I’d like to find a way to do both. I’m sure this is not the last stop for me in restaurants.”
In the meantime, if you’d like to pay your respects, you can catch her at The Stockpot location in Virginia Beach until the end of the week.
This article is written by Matthew Korfhage from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.