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A Fruitful Partnership 

Manny Eats and RichWine host tomato dinner, herald new business venture.

click to enlarge Lance Lemon and Emmanuel “Manny” Baiden will be co-hosting a (now sold-out) five-course tomato and wine dinner as part of Barboursville Vineyards’ Summer Supper Somm series.

Scott Elmquist

Lance Lemon and Emmanuel “Manny” Baiden will be co-hosting a (now sold-out) five-course tomato and wine dinner as part of Barboursville Vineyards’ Summer Supper Somm series.

It’s peak tomato season and Ghanian native Emmanuel “Manny” Baiden can’t get enough of the fruit, sourcing from local farms like Village Garden and his own flourishing, homegrown vines.

“One of my first memories of tomatoes is going to the farmers market with my mom,” says Baiden. “When you find the right ripeness and firmness you can use them in salads or keep them a little while to stew.”

On Monday, July 25, Baiden will be drawing from memories of stewed tomatoes in jollof rice during an intimate—now sold-out—five course tomato and wine dinner. Part of Village Garden and Barboursville Vineyards’ Summer Supper Somm series. Baiden’s event will also feature the vino expertise of friends and business partners, Lance Lemon and Kristen Gardner Beal of RichWine.

This is not the first time Baiden and the RichWine team have collaborated—and it certainly won’t be the last. Last summer, the private chef and boutique online wine retailers hosted a “Bottomless Tapas and Wine” pop-up at Canvas Studios.

At the time, Lemon noted that he tasted—and loved—Baiden’s food before he met the chef himself. It was pre-ordained, somehow, that the three would continue to cross paths until they reached a final, delicious destination.

That destination manifests this fall in a shared concept, with Manny providing the "eats" and Lemon and Beal providing the wine.

Baiden says the focused menu of their upcoming new spot will feature eight to 10 small plates which diners will be able to order a la carte, as a coursed tasting menu or family style. “It will be very chill and laid-back,” says Baiden. “The menu will be simple but delicious, I’ll be training kitchen staff with attention to detail so I won’t need to be there all the time.”

Three to four shifts a week will be plenty for Baiden, who currently divides his time between catering large and small events and heading intimate, in-home chef gigs through his company, Manny Eats.

He’s also hosted two “Motherland” pop-ups since moving to Richmond in 2019—with more on the horizon—creating traditional West African dishes with modern proclivities.

“I know a lot of people think Ghanian or African food has to be a certain way, but it can be broken down into such different components, ingredients, techniques and recipes,” says Baiden. “I don't want people to have one view of what African food is, I want to show how versatile it can be.”

The first Motherland pop-up was to-go only, but Baiden says people immediately started reaching out, letting him know they were hooked on this nuanced cuisine, featuring dishes that Baiden had smoked, grilled, fermented, dried and salted.

“A lot of the responses were, ‘I’ve never really had anything like this,’” says Baiden. “There are so many different flavors—there’s fatty and acid and umami.”

The second Motherland pop-up took form this spring as a multi-course seated dinner at Brittanny Anderson’s Black Lodge. “She really loved the concept,” says Baiden. “It sold out and we had such a good time, it was great explaining courses to everyone and seeing their faces light up.”

For his Summer Supper Somm dinner, Baiden will infuse his four courses with African flavors, using his mom as unofficial pre-event taste tester. He urges that he knows how to make a damn good jollof rice with a heady, rich flavor of smoked short rib stock and aromatics like ginger and garlic but his mom—like all moms—makes it best, and he’ll let her have final say.

Baiden hopes his family, visiting from Ghana, will be able to attend the dinner so they can see him in action, pursuing a dream they’ve always supported. “I have to credit my mom and dad with where I am as a chef,” says Baiden. “The things I cooked for Motherland, that was the influence of my mom—she taught me how to make a lot of the traditional dishes we ate at home. We were eating the food her mom made.”

Baiden’s father is a well-traveled businessman who passed along the joy of exploration and discovery to his son. “One of my earliest memories of food is my dad trying to make fried rice,” laughs Baiden. “It wasn’t the best version you would ever have, but it was pretty close. My dad really opened my eyes to different cuisines.”

For their Summer Supper Somm dinner, Lemon insists that Baiden’s menu is the star of the show, though he and Beal—and Barboursville sommelier Jason Tesauro—will complement the oysters, gazpacho, jollof and short ribs with the perfect pours.

“We support Manny and Jason and this event, and obviously we will be pouring the Barboursville wine, but we will also give a little love to the RichWine vision, too,” says Lemon.

Pairing the wine from an eight generations-old Virginia vineyard with the wine from a retailer specializing in biodynamic, low-intervention bottles from around the world is no small feat. This blending of old and new falls right in line with Baiden’s mission of introducing traditional Ghanian cuisine in a modern context.

The tomato dinner is a teaser of what to expect from the RichWine team and Baiden in the new, shared concept, though Lemon urges that the rollout will be gradual, and there are many more details they’ll be sharing over the next couple of months.

“We really want it to be word of mouth,” says Lemon. “People know RichWine and people know Manny, and they’ll start to know we are doing things at this location.”

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