Brice Cunningham, owner of Tempo Restaurant in Charlottesville, VAReady for a history lesson? I’ll make this quick.

In 1824, Gilbert du Motier, a.k.a. the Marquis de Lafayette, traveled from France and paid a visit to his friend Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. During his two week stay, Lafayette and Jefferson chatted about UVA, the means of maintaining political independence in the republics in South America, and a host of other philosophical topics that only men of their time could make interesting. The online Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia via Monticello.org is a great resource if you want to learn more about the Lafayette/Jefferson bromance. But, this is a food blog. I digress.

This past holiday weekend, I sat down with Executive Chef/Owner Brice (pronounced Breece) Cunningham of Tempo Restaurant and Bar on the Downtown Mall. Chef Brice and his father/co-owner Stewart Cunningham have just teamed up with the James Beard Foundation where they are taking part in Serving Up James Beard, a restaurant menu promotion to support the Foundation’s Silver Anniversary Scholarship Drive. Participating chefs from across the country choose a James Beard recipe and create an inspired dish to serve at their restaurants. One dollar from each dish sold will be donated to the scholarship drive. Chef Brice’s goal is to raise $1,000 now through Labor Day.

Lemongrass Lafayette Scallops at Tempo Restaurant in Charlottesville, VAIf you haven’t tried the scallops yet at Tempo, you’re missing out. A best-seller, the scallops topped with a delicate sea foam mousse have been a staple on their rotating menu. Therefore, it was only natural for Parisian Chef Brice to reinvent a Beard dish that ties in Charlottesville’s favorite tourist and features this tasty marine bivalve mollusk.

As his inspiration, Chef Brice selected “Escalopes de Veau Lafayette” which is essentially broiled veal scallops with tomato, avocado and port wine.  Chef Brice’s version of the dish is “Lemongrass Lafayette Scallops” which is described on the menu as scallops and red pepper grilled on lemongrass skewers served over a potato confit with an avocado port sauce and ginger-infused coconut cream.  The avocado port sauce is inspired by a lobster dish from Troisgros, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Roanne, France where Stewart worked in the 1960’s..

The dish is a marriage of Chef Brice’s classical French culinary training, a childhood spent in the South Pacific Islands, and Charlottesville’s rich heritage. It’s fusion at its best which is the heart of Tempo’s cuisine.  Tempo gets its name from the underlying beat that stays the same no matter the culture from which it comes. It’s this progressive take that makes me believe that Lemongrass Lafayette Scallops will some day find a permanent home on the menu.

Stay tuned for a full profile of Chef Brice, coming soon!