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Rashad Thompson adds eclectic style to food staples

Chef Rashad Thompson wearing a chef’s apron standing by a bar in a restaurant.
Lance Lemon
Chef Rashad Thompson, Owner, Apt. 310, LLC, loves cooking eclectic comfort food.

Rashad Thompson’s “aha moment” as a budding chef occurred when he sold homemade turkey sandwiches at summer camp at the age of 8.

The flavor and presentation of his turkey sandwiches earned him $1 each.

The Church Hill resident recalled that even then, he had no desire to slap meat and cheese between bread slices. “I actually cut up lettuce, shredded it, added mayo with a little mustard and dressed it pretty good.” His handiwork allowed him to treat himself to soda and candy.

That was the start of making money from a skillset he honed “as a sous chef for my grandmother and mother.” By age 12, he was “the executive chef” for himself and his three siblings.

Thompson, 32, credited such a weighty responsibility for allowing him to discover his passion and gift, which is cooking elevated and eclectic comfort food. “A lot of those same things I made for myself and my siblings growing up, I still enjoy until this day. As well as some of my clients.” Such dishes include fried chicken, spaghetti and salmon cakes.

“I make things you can make in your apartment or want to order out” but sprinkle “some razzle dazzle on it.” For example, Thompson sometimes adds Merlot to his marinara sauce for a bolder flavor and often tops smoked shrimp and grits, a dish he grew up eating in Savannah, Georgia, with mussels and sausage.

Cooking and catering since 2021, Thompson enjoys combining Asian and Mexican flavors “with some of the Southern gems” like grits, okra and lima beans — household staples cooked by his grandmother, Carlotta Thompson.

His mom, Latonya Thompson, was a mother at age 13, so Carlotta raised both of them. While his mother worked, “I had to learn to cook.”

Necessity set in motion the first steps of his culinary journey, but Thompson found creativity, comfort and control as a youngster learning how to cook everything from peas and potatoes to pork chops and peach cobbler.

Growing up, he wanted to attend culinary school, but felt it was not an option. Money was tight in his single parent home.

“I put culinary school on the back burner,” said Thompson, who also does private dinners and catered events.

Once Thompson worked and saved money for college, he briefly considered nursing and computer science as career options. He knew deep in his heart he wanted to own his own restaurant one day, so he studied hospitality management to “get another view of the industry as a whole rather than just the kitchen.”

At 27, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from Morgan State University and moved to Richmond in 2018 to work for Marriott.

When he arrived, he did so without friends or family: “I joined the Urban League Greater Richmond Young Professionals, met people, and had shindigs at my apartment. I invited people up to my rooftop to grill and have brunch.”

The food, as well as the vibe, is the feel Thompson wants to capture for his restaurant one day.

His brand name, Apt. 310, is his apartment number — since that space also influenced his chef approach. “My culinary vision is to create a space very much like my home, where eclectic dishes can be put on display fusing some of my favorite flavors,” which include chicken sambal skewers with chow mein noodles or an egg benedict on a bao bun or pork belly.

In 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he lost his job at a commercial real estate company. He took that as a sign to stop ignoring what he needed to pursue.

Thompson, who currently works out of a kitchen at Penny’s Wine Shop, plans to own a restaurant as a 35th birthday gift to himself. Other goals include a cookbook, competing on Chopped and traveling around the globe “to experience different cultures and their comfort food.”

As a self-taught chef, social media has been a great teaching tool for Thompson. For example, he learned how to blend fresh herbs with a powder to make a flavorful foam.

“It’s definitely a nonstop learning opportunity. Some techniques you wouldn’t even attempt if you hadn’t been taught. But because you see it, and you’re into this kind of arena, you want to try that,” he said.

Thompson’s culinary journey took a circuitous route, but it led him back to the can-do spirit of a boy watching customers eat his food at camp. If he could talk to his younger self about his future, he’d share this: “Trust the direction. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s already laid out, you’ve got to trust the steps.”

He will demonstrate smoked shrimp and grits with a guajillo pepper cream sauce recipe at the Richmond Night Market at VPM’s booth on Aug.12, 2023. The recipe, originally his grandmother’s, has been altered over time.

“Back in the day, my grandmom made it a certain way, a lot looser than I make mine. She served it with shrimp simmering in the pan with butter, some flour, water, couple of peppers and onions and she put it over top the grits. But I’ve adapted it over time to give it some life, some color and more flavor. The basis of this is the shrimp and grits itself. It’s what you eat usually but elevated.”

To connect with Rashad Thompson, go to

Shrimp and grits serving in a bowl with wine bottle in the background
Rashad Thompson
Come sample Chef Rashad Thompson’s Shrimp & Grits at VPM’s booth at The Richmond Night Market on August 12.

Shrimp & Grits Recipe

2 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth divided
2 cups whole milk or heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted-butter divided
3/4 cup stone-ground grits
1 cup smoked gouda cheeses shredded
1 lb. jumbo prawns peeled and deveined or head on prawns
kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
thinly sliced green onions, parsley, micro cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions For Grits

Bring 2 cups of the chicken broth, the milk (2 cups), 3 tablespoons of the butter, and a pinch of salt to a gentle boil in a medium sized pot. Add the grits and whisk together. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until grits are soft and creamy, whisking every few minutes. Cover and set aside off heat – they will finish softening up while they sit.

Instructions For Cream Sauce

1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 dried guajillo peppers
1 tbs of smoked paprika 
1 pinch kosher salt, more to taste
1 pinch white pepper, or black pepper, more to taste

Boil guajillo peppers in until soft and blend with 1 cup of milk

  • Strain and sit aside 
  • Heat the pepper milk in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbles begin to appear around the edge. Keep warm. 
  • Melt the butter in a separate saucepan over medium-low heat. 
  • Add the flour and stir until the mixture is well blended to make a roux. Continue cooking, stirring, for 2 minutes. Make sure it does not turn brown. 
  • Gradually stir the hot milk into the flour and butter mixture. Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to boil and slightly thickens. Simmer, frequently stirring, over very low heat for 5 minutes. 
  • Stir in the cream and chicken stock, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over grits and enjoy. 

Instructions For Smoked Shrimp

Because a grill is not always an option for home chefs use this method.

  • Sauté your shrimp of choice in butter garlic and a few dashes of liquid smoked to give you a smokey flavor and add at the end to complete this dish.  
  • Garnish with fresh herbs when complete.