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Let's Do Lunch! visits Isabella's in Lynchburg, Virginia with executive chef Sean Meeks who served up a delicious seafood bouillabaisse brimming with shrimp, mussels, scallops and squid over sun-shaped pasta in a spicy broth. A spoon is well needed to gather every last drop. Sean says it's a dish that is normally served in the fall but the hearty flavors still work in the spring. Most everything at Isabella's is farm to table including the beef for their Sunday brunch burger. 'Getting something shipped in from a third world country just doesn't have the flavor. If you know the farmer, the food just tastes better automatically,' Sean tells host Robin Milling.
The dish depends on the season getting fresh local vegetables to inspire the meal. Patrons don't seem to mind if it's summer or winter, ordering signature dishes like lasagna bolognese and walnut crusted salmon and savory parmesan risotto. Save room for dessert as their homemade baby cannolis are a taste of Italy.
Living in the south of Lynchburg, Sean grew up growing his own food and helping his mom and grandparents in the kitchen with pickling and preparing. His career actually began at 11 when he started appreciating giving simple foods a twist. Working at his family's concession stand Meeks Hotdogs, he would steam them with onions, celery, and garlic. His lucky break came at 16 while busing tables at a restaurant. One of the cooks cut his hand so Sean stepped in and took over the kitchen.
At home he teaches his kids how to chop up vegetables for their pet pig aptly named Chorizo! For the past 13 years Isabella's has become his second home mentoring others and encouraging their culinary education.
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It's good to talk.