Carrie Fleck Walters, ’00, is quick to say she doesn’t back down from a challenge. So when a friend suggested on Twitter that she couldn’t create a map of the city of Richmond set entirely in type, Walters had only one reaction: to get to work.
The Richmond Type Map took off, and requests for prints and versions of other cities followed (which Walters always turns down, saying, “That was a passion project. I’m not invested in other towns.”).
To meet the demand for prints, Walters needed to create a company to manage sales and distribution. She soon realized that this could be a first step toward something bigger, a way for other local artists to produce and sell their work. Thus, Blunt Objects was formed, creating an online marketplace for Richmond-centric goods.
“I can work with different artists or writers or photographers, and figure out ways to help them along,” she says. “I’m really good at designing things and I know how to get products produced, so I can help other people do the same.”
In fact, as they were finishing up the paperwork, Chris Gatewood, the lawyer who helped her set up Blunt Objects, pitched his own idea: What about a cookbook featuring Richmond chefs and restaurants?
Richmond’s food scene is in the midst of a serious boom, with attention coming from everything from The Washington Post and The New York Times to Frommer’s. Showcasing that talent — while bringing a small taste to the home kitchen — was a no brainer.
Along with Susan Howson, G’07, writer and editor for the project, the team brainstormed a list of restaurants to highlight and set to work.
The name — 804ork — and logo came easy.
“We sat around the table and Susan said, ‘we can call it 804ork,’” Walters says. “And that was it.”
The rest of the process proved a bit more challenging. Walters and Howson have worked in various aspects of publications over the years, but a cookbook was a new project for both. Extensive proofing, a lengthy printing schedule, and the varied hours the restaurant world blew their initial production schedule out of the water.
They also had to create a template that was flexible enough to work for Comfort’s three-step pimento cheese as well as Secco Wine Bar’s 16-step chilled corn soup with smoked scallops, and charred corn salad with piquillo peppers and marjoram. They even found consistency among chefs who rely on metric versus standard measurements, and scaled recipes structured to serve 40 with ingredients measured in gallons.
“Some restaurants do their sauces on Monday in huge cookers, and they’re OK for the week,” Walters says. “We didn’t know until we really got into it to look at everything and say, ‘let’s unify and make every single recipe serve eight.’”
Looking back, Howson says, “I think next time I would call the chefs, sit with them while they make the recipe, and record what they’re doing. A lot of times, they gave us what they had written down, but it’s what they give to their sous chefs.”
Challenges aside, Walters and Howson were excited to see it arrive on shelves just in time for Mother’s Day. “We got it in the mail and were like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s real! It’s real, man,’” Howson says. “We hugged it.”
“But,” Walters says, “we’re never going to read it word for word again.”
With lessons learned, they’re planning future iterations of 804ork, with possibilities ranging from a focus on cocktails and small plates to desserts and baked goods.
“It’s a snapshot in the history of the Richmond restaurant scene,” Walters says. “Maybe this grows and people have a little yearbook of the food scene.”