Chef Jason Alley grew up in Pulaski, Virginia, where agriculture and manufacturing was the mainstay of the local economy. At the age of four he industriously started cooking and never really stopped, helping out his busy family by whipping up Southern comfort food. His first restaurant job was at a crab shack in Rehobeth, DE at the age of 10. Alley resolved to go to college, but he soon realized that he was not well-suited to the world of academia and left to work at a Quaker-owned orchard near Harrisonburg, Virginia.
But fate intervened when a group of friends washing dishes at Harrisonburg Country Club encouraged him to join them. Soon he started prepping food and watching the chefs cook, and it wasn’t long before he had worked his way up to lead cook. While in Harrisonburg, Alley took over as head chef at local pub. He left shortly after for Champaign, Illinois and while his now-wife studied at the University of Illinois, he took a sous chef position at a local restaurant, continuing to hone his craft.
The couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked at 1848 House, Blue Ridge Grill, and ENO. Although the couple loved their time in Atlanta, his native state beckoned and Alley returned, this time to Richmond, where he met his soon-to-be restaurant partner Chris Chandler. Alley and Chandler opened Comfort in 2002. Alley’s menu sings with a passion for the kind of Southern comfort food classics you could picture on checkered picnic blankets in some idyllic painting. In 2011, with the help of partners Michele Jones and Ry Marchant, Jason opened his second restaurant, Pasture. Pasture features local products prepared simply, with a focus on small plates and current interpretations of classic Southern flavors. Jason will open Bingo, a micro-brewery, with a retro arcade and menu of creative, updated bar food in the Fall of 2018.
In 2017, the need arose for Jason to deal with his lingering problem with alcohol abuse, and since then, he has been in recovery, starting a local chapter of Ben’s Friends, an industry support group for those seeking support and a path toward living a sober life. The call to service hasn’t stopped there, as he and his partner Michele switched their business model at Comfort, and have been donating all profits to fight hunger in the greater Richmond area through a partnership with Feedmore, Richmonds core hunger relief agency.