Catching up with… Harper Bradshaw

Published 4:21 pm Monday, April 5, 2010

A love of food and cooking runs in Harper Bradshaw’s family.

“We’ve had kind of a running joke that at lunch the conversation is always about what we are going to have for dinner,” he said.

The 29-year-old Franklin native has translated that love of food into a successful career. He is currently Chef de Cuisine at Vintage Tavern, a fine-dining restaurant in northern Suffolk that opened in 2006.

“Our food has really evolved and grown. We call our cuisine seasonally Southern, so we really try to take advantage of local farmers, local fishermen and local growers,” Bradshaw said. Classic Southern dishes like grits, spoonbread and macaroni-and-cheese are offered at the restaurant along with scallops, oysters and duck, to name a few.

“We just celebrate a lot of old Southern culinary traditions, while adding our fresh and new approach to food.”

Bradshaw attended public schools in Franklin before eventually graduating from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and later James Madison University with a degree in recreation management.

“At some point I veered from that path,” he said. Bradshaw said culinary school isn’t generally a necessity for chefs.

“It’s a very unique industry, and your experience and your knowledge is really more important than your education or any diploma,” he said.

After college, Bradshaw worked at a couple of other restaurants in the area before being hired as a Sous Chef, or under chef, at Vintage Tavern just weeks after the restaurant opened.

A couple of years later, he became the Chef de Cuisine, overseeing the operations of the kitchen under the direction of Executive Chef Sam McGann.

“I was lucky enough to work for some very talented, informative chefs that kind of gave me the bug … , and then cookbooks of some highly esteemed American chefs really shaped and formed my thought process,” he said. “As I have grown as a chef, I’ve come up with my own beliefs and philosophies and principles that are revolved around food.”

While some businesses have been hard hit during the economic recession, Bradshaw said Vintage Tavern has “been lucky.”

“Our cuisine is something that we really believe in … . Folks are always going to be able to find a little bit of money to go celebrate their special occasions,” he said.

Bradshaw lives in Suffolk with his wife, Laura, and their two children. His parents, Chuck and Betsy Bradshaw, still live in Franklin. ←