Jason Alley has been a forerunner of the Southern-local movement for a decade. As the owner of Comfort at 200 W. Broad St. and Pasture at 416 E. Grace St., he networks tirelessly and is one of the reasons Richmond's on the map as a food town. He's responsible for the Southern Foodways Alliance, Gourmet magazine, The New York Times and many others taking second and third looks at Richmond. He mentors his employees and gives them opportunities to grow with his organization or supports them when they move on.
He's organized and participated in dine arounds and dining events with other chefs. He listens to customer demands — they didn't respond to his all small-plate menu so he changed it. And he's creative in a conservative dining market, and puts great food on the plate at a reasonable cost. He also took a chance on opening up in a fringe neighborhood. It's no coincidence that Rappahannock opened where it did a block west of Pasture downtown; Alley has supported that oyster-selling business for years as a customer and encouraged it to open a restaurant as a neighbor.