Creating a Safe Space

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Richmond’s 2018 Elby-winning Chef of the Year has something he wants the city to know, and it has nothing to do with charcuterie or making better pasta. 

In February, Joe Sparatta won the award for the second time, chosen by national journalists and chefs. Sparatta is co-owner of both Heritage and Southbound.

What most in attendance did not know was that only three months earlier the chef had suffered a personal low, when, in November, he checked himself into an outpatient program for alcoholism.

Today, Sparatta is going public to raise awareness in the community of chefs and restaurant workers, many of whom, he says, are in the midst of similar battles with their addictions.

Sparatta told me he had been sober for two years before he relapsed. “I had never drunk and tried to cook,” he said this morning, in a long phone conversation that the chef described as “freeing.

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Jaci Lund