Chef Mike Lund

Every passion is born of some particular experience. For Mike Lund, that experience was his 1st taste of the restaurant business during summer vacations on the shore, visiting his ‘cool’ aunt and uncle who owned a couple of popular eateries. Even though his first ‘job’ was mostly sweeping side walks and doing dishes, Mike had the bug. His first payday? Sweet ice cream, the summer gold of childhood.

At 15, he began officially working in commercial kitchens. That led to his decision to study Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University Of Tennessee, His ‘homework’ consisted of playing lots of rugby and getting on-the-job training in some of the finest bars and grills in Knoxville. Then came years of learning the hard way—by working long hours in hot kitchens, pursuing knowledge, skills, and the right ladder to climb.


Mike was fortunate enough to find that ladder and spend six years working at the five-star, five-diamond rated Inn at Little Washington under the tutelage of Chef Patrick O’Connell, who guided the restaurant when it was declared number one in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. It was there that he refined his style and impeccable execution while he crafted dishes for celebrities and industry luminaries alike. His work drew notice and his dedication eventually landed him the position of Executive Sous Chef in charge of all kitchen operations. Also (and certainly important for this story), Mike was instrumental in helping develop the Inn’s catering program.


But Mike still wanted to learn more, so he took a six-month sabbatical to pursue the ingredients he had been working with back down the food chain. He traveled to Hawaii to trace the sources of the seafood destined for our plates, attending international auctions held in the pre-dawn hours to witness the sourcing of foods from the ocean to the kitchen.


He carried with him that knowledge of sourcing the best ingredients when he arrived in Staunton, Virginia, and took over as Executive Chef of Zynodoa restaurant. It was there that he cultivated deep and lasting relationships with the various farmers, foragers, and fishermen that operate in the verdant Shenandoah Valley and its surrounding communities. His efforts brought the restaurant unprecedented praise and acclaim, and helped to put his adopted hometown of Staunton on the map as a ‘foodie’ community whose depth and breadth belies its relatively small size.


The next step in Chef Mike’s career was venturing out on his own and establishing Mike Lund Food in 2010, in an effort to bring all he had learned to the existing catering options in the area. His goal, which he has studiously maintained through hundreds of special events, was to elevate event dining to the refined level that he had achieved in traditional restaurant environments. His casual, weekday sit-down venture, LUNdCH, grew organically out of a desire to keep busy during slower seasons and provide an easy, relaxed way to sample menu items as part of the decision-making process for those looking to hire a caterer.

Chef Mike Lund is a natural leader and an enthusiastic teacher. Always armed with tact and confidence when dealing with the public, he is dedicated to bringing the very best ingredients and dishes to his clients—and this philosophy guides him in everything he does. Time permitting, he also brings his love of cooking to younger chefs-in-training, for schools and community service groups.

 

Chef James Harris

Chef James Harris has crossed the country to pursue his culinary passion—but he’s always home when he’s in the kitchen. Born in sunny San Diego, he worked his way through several locations before he arrived at the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts to formalize his training and prepare himself for his career.
Armed with his fresh skills and his passion for local foods, after graduation he made his way to the Inn at Little Washington, known for being ranked the number one restaurant in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. It was there that he met Mike Lund and cemented a friendship and working relationship that has lasted since then. Years of hard work taught James how to successfully implement his culinary training, and earned him the position of kitchen manager at the Inn.
After Mike left the Inn, James headed to the Dallas area, known for its proximity to the legendary Texas cattle country. There he worked as a butcher, perfecting his knowledge of honing his whole animal utilization skills.
But timing is everything, and James was ready for a new adventure when Chef Mike called, in need of a skilled and trustworthy set of hands to step in as the sous chef at Zynodoa in downtown Staunton, a pioneer in the burgeoning local foods movement. A few years later, when Mike stepped down to start his own business, James was promoted to executive chef and went on to further refine Zynodoa’s reputation over the next three years.


After Zynodoa, James sought out greater challenges, and worked to open two new properties in Lexington, VA, The Georges & TAPS. As is his way, he was involved with every aspect of the project, from kitchen design and build out, to plate selection and menu development.
As Mike Lund Food grew and the need for another skilled and simpatico Chef presented itself, Chef James was happy to return to Staunton and reunite the team that had already made its mark on the area’s farm to table movement. Since then he has happily settled in to a behind-the-scenes role as a behind-the-stoves chef, away from the spotlight. If you don’t get a chance to meet him, know this—Chef James is a rare sort in the culinary world, one that is truly happiest sweating it out, dish after dish, ensuring that every item that leaves his kitchen is up to his stringent standards of quality.

 

 

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Awards & Accolades

Chef Educator Today, Winter 2010  “Lessons in Local Food”
cover story and interview with Chef Mike Lund
Edible Blue Ridge Magazine, Spring 2010 “Local Food Hero Award”
Best Chef/Restaurant Michael Lund / Zynodoa
Edible Cville best of 2010, Best Restaurant, Zynodoa
Mid Atlantic Red Fruit Festival 1st runner up
Regular contributor to the Charlottesville Cooking School
and Wade’s Mill chef demonstration
Assisted White House chef Cris Comerford, in preparation of State Dinner
in reception of the Prime Minister of India, November 2009