Virginia is not just a neighbor of Washington, D.C., or a stop on a road trip from the South to the Northeast: It is its own place, with a unique culinary scene. Southern-style food and wine thrive in the state, bringing many to Virginia to eat, as well as to learn cooking.
A taste of Virginia's culinary wonders: Ham, wine, and more
The beauty of Virginian cuisine is that more than one style thrives there, depending on what region of the state a person's in.
Coastal Virginia (especially the stretch between Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean) is praised for its seafood. The Virginian oysters, clams and soft shell crabs attract visitors year-round. Wachapreague even bills itself "The Flounder Capital of the World." Also popular in coastal Virginia are peanuts (the largest peanuts in the country) and Smithfield Hams (hams in Virginia have been famous since the 17th century), the latter renowned for their salt-cured, slowly smoked flavor. Southern and central Virginia boast Southern comfort foods and wines. The famous Brunswick Stew, loved for its hearty meat and vegetable base, originated in Virginia's Brunswick County. Northern Virginia is known for its shiitake mushrooms and a climate suitable for premium grapes. Shenandoah Valley nurtures sweet nectarines and peaches, with Winchester dubbed "The Apple Capital of the World." Rockingham County is the "Turkey Capital of the World." And to top it all off, there are over 225 wineries in the state, according to the Virginia Wine website (Virginia Wine.org, 2013).
This truly is a foodie state, ideal for food fanatics and culinary students.
Culinary Schools in Virginia: Watch, learn and do
If Virginia's culinary scene isn't enough to convince those looking at culinary schools to make the move, then perhaps the state's booming restaurant economy will be. Virginia brings a lot of locals and tourists alike to its restaurants, as the numbers seem to suggest.
According to a report from the National Restaurant Association (restaurant.org, 2013), Virginia's restaurants are expected to register $13.9 billion in sales in 2013 and account for about 348,100 jobs, which is 9 percent of the jobs in the state. The group also projects Virginia restaurants to add 35,500 jobs by 2023. The reason that's important, the study shows, is because for every dollar spent in Virginia's restaurants, the state economy gets $0.93, which means every $1 million generates 23.5 jobs in the state. This would seem to indicate a healthy economy, worth diving into.
The statistics bear it out: Virginia's food culture is booming. Internationally recognized and mentioned in popular books such as "Misty of Chincoteague," the Virginia restaurant scene has attracted a number of famous chefs, such as Peter Chang at Peter Chang Cafe in Richmond. Food lovers flock to Virginia restaurants because of the unique, delicious food and the world-class chefs -- some of whom teach at culinary schools in the state.
Virginia Restaurant Industry At A Glance, National Restaurant Association and Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Census Bureau, 2011, http://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/State-Statistics/virginia
Virginia Foods - Specialty Foods of Virginia, Washington, D.C., About.com, 2013, http://dc.about.com/od/restaurants/tp/Virginia-Foods.htm
Virginia Foods, Virginia is for Lovers, Official Tourism Website of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Tourism Corporation, 2013, http://www.virginia.org/VirginiaFoods/
Virginia Wine, Wineries & Wine Events, 2013, http://www.virginiawine.org/wineries