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Laine Myers brings pasta to people. Through her dishes, Myers has garnered critical acclaim – and through her identity, has uplifted her community.

Myers was named to the 2022 elite cadre of StarChefs Rising Stars in the DC area. The winners are a collection of emerging chefs and bartenders recognized by StarChefs, an industry group that supports the restaurant world.

Myers, who identifies as queer and is part of the LGBTQ community, is forging a unique path through Richmond’s food scene. “My homosexuality has become my mark,” she says. “People feel comfortable talking to us — that’s the trust we create,” as much as the pasta, she notes.

Myers and the other rising stars have been “recognized by StarChefs for their culinary strengths, their charitable contributions to the DMV and their ability to navigate, lead and inspire,” according to StarChefs.

Originally from Connecticut, Myers was an undergrad when she started cooking professionally. She soon landed at Graffiato, which was Richmond’s biggest new restaurant during the era of celebrity chef Mike Isabella (now in disgrace). There, she fell in love with the pasta station. She soon moved to a restaurant owned by another former rising star and Top Chef, Brittany Anderson. Finally, she was named executive chef of Nota Bene in 2019, while simultaneously founding Oro, a pop-up focused on artisan, seasonal and plant-based pasta and other Italian dishes.

When the pandemic hit, Myers quickly realized that a traditional restaurant format was not viable. She left Nota Bene to focus on Oro.

The pandemic has offered opportunities – and challenges. “On the one hand, it gave me time to reset myself and really identify how I wanted to conduct myself and my business moving forward in an industry that was heavily scrutinized for the poor environment of work for which she is notoriously known,” she says. “On the other hand, a lot of the pandemic has felt like improvisation and like survival.” Myers noted that she encountered significant discrimination as a female and queer professional in the kitchen, only later thriving in female-run restaurants and later mostly as an entrepreneur and owner herself. .

Today, she runs her own business with her partner. “We are the face of Oro, and I think our homosexuality has been incorporated into the brand.” When she brings Oro to farmers markets, she notes the support of the LGBTQ community and Oro has become a de facto LGBTQ caterer of choice. “We are constantly approached by homosexual couples. There is intention, trust and understanding.

Establishing these basic, foundational community relationships has helped her through the pandemic — and allowed her to gain visibility in a male-dominated, straight industry. Leading Oro through the pandemic laid bare his priorities: both pasta and connecting with the local LGBTQ community.

Oro currently operates out of a small commissary kitchen at the Hatch Café. Her creative offerings range from a “Cinderella Pumpkin Casconcelli” with dates, toasted pumpkin seeds, parmesan and rosemary, to a charred pappardelle with sweet cauliflower and a jammy egg. Beyond pasta, she prepares antipasti like beetroot-butternut caponata and desserts like walnut tart and borscht cheesecake. Beyond making small-batch pasta for farmers markets and same-sex weddings, Myers also offers retail and wholesale pasta and operates a rotating supper club.

StarChefs gave Myers the award because her “expertly executed pasta-centric dishes reflect both art and craft.” They’re the honest fruit of years of hard work both developing his creative personal cooking style and honing his past game — and Richmond’s dining scene is only the better for it, says StarChefs Managing Partner Will Blunt. Other winners of the award include chefs Paolo Dungca of DC-based Pogiboy, Angel Barreto of Anju and the team behind RASA. StarChefs is running a two-week promotion through March 29, showcasing the 2022 DC-area restaurants “that best represent the future of American dining.”

Up Next, Myers plans to continue to be creative and flexible. She’s looking to create a brick-and-mortar pasta-making kitchen, shop, and educational center that also offers “sexy dinner service at night.”

She believes that “there needs to be a holistic change in the industry. I need to have a space where workers can flourish and be well. We cannot go back to the old model of 80 hours a week.

“If I can’t ask someone else to do it, how can I ask myself to do it? It’s certainly an odd prospect,” concludes Myers.

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