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Love, loss, and leadership: How Michelle Williams rose in Richmond restaurants

Posted at 2:22 PM, Dec 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-02 14:23:01-05

RICHMOND, Va. — Michelle Williams has been a leader in Richmond restaurants for more than 30 years. From student, to chef, to restaurant owner, it’s safe to say Williams has seen it all during her culinary career. But it has not been easy.

Williams shared a deeply personal story with Robey and Scott about the day her professional and personal life changed in an instant.

“While [working] at the Butlery, I met what became my fiancé, his name was Robbie Robert. He and I met a gentleman named Bob Talcottt,” Williams said. “Bob wanted to open a restaurant called the Island Grill. Robbie and I joined on with Bob to open his restaurant, Robbie was also a chef. And so we thought, we’ll do this, we’ll run this for him, we kind of let him know will be there for a couple years, but that our intention was to open our own. And about a year and a half into that scenario, Robbie was killed in a car accident. So still hard now. But it’s, it’s part of my story. So it got me here.”

Michelle Williams

Williams credited business partner Jared Golden for helping her come back from the tragedy. In the years since, Williams, Golden, and the Richmond Restaurant Group have opened restaurants like The Hard Shell, The Hill Cafe, and The Daily.

Williams shared her views of the ways Richmond restaurants have changed over the decades, dove into some of the challenges facing restaurants heading into 2020, and discussed what it takes to lead a kitchen.

“If anything, I feel like because I am a woman and I wasn’t afraid to take leadership and ownership and be strong, that that maybe got me more respect from my staff, and maybe even potentially from my peers. I think that when you set your mind to something and then, if you’re decisive and stand behind your opinions that it shouldn’t matter, man, woman, black, white,” she said. “If you’re going to be a woman in this industry, you have to be strong and if you’re going to be a woman and be strong, you’re going to end up at the top.”

Also in this episode, Allie Hochman, with Starr Hill Brewery, shared details about the Charlottesville brewery’s entrance into Richmond beer community with the opening of Starr Hill Richmond Beer Hall & Rooftop in Scott’s Addition.

And as a side note, due to the holiday and some bad computer juju, this episode’s sound and structure is, ahem, not the norm for Eat It, Virginia! Apologies in advance.