Rekaya Gibson – The Virginia Pilot

The Food Dude, John Walters, described me perfectly: “The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating.

I’m constantly on the lookout for seasoned foods that allow me to taste greatness, food and drink events with a bit of history, and tea with real Camellia sinensis. Now I can share these findings and more with readers of The Pilot and Daily Press.

I hope to help readers discover their new favorite places, satisfy their sweet tooth cravings, and discover drink options for all occasions. Also, I plan to give them a little something extra – or lagniappe (lan-yap), as they say in New Orleans – when they plan a night out. I will share some recipes from my kitchen and others.

I’ve been cooking since I was 8 years old growing up in Indiana. My first meal: Thanksgiving dinner. I pulled the chair over to the stove while my mother gave instructions on how to prepare all the trimmings. I’m bigger now. I always like to cook and experiment. Plus, I’ve been writing about food and drink for over 18 years as a freelancer, blogger, and author, the last 12 while enjoying cuisines and drinks across Hampton Roads.

I’ve wanted to live in Virginia since the 90s. My plans were hijacked when I attended college in the Big Easy, and moved there after graduation. I couldn’t resist – and still can’t – the seafood gumbo at Dooky Chase restaurant, the succulent red beans and chicken fried rice at The Praline Connection (now closed), the bread pudding soufflé Commander’s Palace and many more. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina took me away from it all and I made the decision to move to Las Vegas, the land of buffets. I stayed for five years before deciding where I wanted to live. The answer was obvious.

When I tell locals I moved to Tidewater because I wanted to be here, they ask me why. I experience four seasons and beautiful fall colors. I have seven cities to play. I’m a train ride from the nation’s capital. That being said, I had no idea I would fall in love with its people, its rich history and, of course, its cuisine.

Since arriving here, I’ve consumed my fair share of savory prime rib from a roadside grill, the kind where the juices run down the shirt and get the right foot kicking. (Not surprised: after all, barbecue was born in southern Virginia.) I walked across the Hampton Roads bridge-tunnel just to enjoy a plate of penne alla vodka. Feel the ocean breeze while indulging in a hot, lightly breaded seafood platter with just the right amount of spices. I scuffed a cookie with crispy edges, soft middles and lots of fries in the parking lot because I couldn’t wait to take it home. I danced under the sunset while drinking full-bodied and sometimes lively Virginia wines.

As a retired nomad, I look forward to writing more stories and creating lasting memories in the Old Dominion to pass on to you. Let’s explore something new together.

Rekaya Gibson, [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @GibsonRekaya