John Shields

Born: 1977. Raised: Tampa, Florida.

Education: Forest Park Community College Culinary Arts program; St. Louis, Missouri.

Experience: Charlie Trotter's and Alinea, Chicago.

How he landed in the very remote town of Chilhowie: "The job at Town House kept popping up on Craigslist, on the Star Chefs site. But my wife, Karen, and I looked at the menu, and it had shrimp cocktail, filet with demiglace—it was food from another era. And we couldn't find Chilhowie on the map. But then they changed the ad to say, 'a great place for a husband-and-wife team,' and I decided to send my resume."

Influences: Grant Achatz. "Working with him was an inspiration. He has this zen calmness. An unwillingness to say, 'We can't do this.' He keeps pushing forward."

Memorable meal: Mugaritz in Errenteria, Spain. "For our honeymoon, we spent one week in France and one week in Spain. I even got Rosetta Stone to brush up on Spanish beforehand, to help me in restaurants. We ate a total of 22 Michelin stars in those two weeks. We were on a mission. But the very best was Mugaritz. The chef is Andoni Luis Aduriz—I love his food, I love the guy."

Favorite thing about southern Virginia: The foraging. "There's wild asparagus through the summer, into August. We can pick wild blueberries in the mountains."

Favorite cookbook: Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras. "When I want to be inspired by nature, I open up that book."

Online obsession: "It's written by a girl in Denmark. She goes out and eats a lot; she goes to Noma and a lot of other places I wish I was eating at."