No restaurant in Charlottesville has a lineage of chefs quite like that of Clifton Inn, one of just sixty in the country to earn Relais & Chateaux status. The men and women who have risen to Executive Chef at Charlottesville’s most decorated restaurant have gone on to do big things in Charlottesville and beyond, owning places like the C & O, Maya, Cakes by Rachel, Eljogaha, and The BBQ Exchange. When Mitch Willey bought the property in the early 1980s to turn it into an inn, he could hardly have imagined that it would become such a breeding ground of great chefs.
Last week, another chef joined the lineage. “It’s extremely exciting for me,” says Yannick Fayolle, the new Executive Chef of Clifton Inn. “I’m very happy to be part of the Clifton history.”
While the transition of one Clifton chef to the next has often been seamless, barely noticed by guests, Fayolle does plan some changes. A native of Mauritius, Fayolle expects more international flavors on the menu. “From my background in Mauritius, I have a different style,” says Fayolle, “drawing on African and Asian influences.” The spices, “bring joy and light to the plate,” says Fayolle, a culinary school graduate who has cooked at such diverse places as Dubai’s One and Only Royal Mirage, Geneva’s Grand Hotel Kempinski, and, right here in Charlottesville, Farmington Country Club.
But while Fayolle’s international influences may distinguish him from his predecessors in the kitchen, there is one way in which he stands out even more. He is the most ripped.
Fayolle competes this weekend in his first ever body-building competition, the Blue Ridge Classic. Held Saturday at the Paramount, it is a national qualifier, and Fayolle hopes to qualify. Not short of confidence, in fact, Fayolle says he is in it to win it.
While body-building and cooking might seem a tough combination, Fayolle sees a natural fit. Fayolle has always brought a healthy, farm-to-table approach to cooking. When he was growing up, his father grew his own vegetables, which struck Fayolle as the only way. Clifton Inn likewise has its own garden, and sources many of its ingredients from local farms. With a fitness fanatic taking over the kitchen, the inn touts a new “farm-to-nutrition-to-table” approach.
Still, life as a chef does bring challenges to body-building. For one, long hours in the kitchen make it difficult for Fayolle to keep up his demanding workout schedule: two hours a day, six days a week. Plus, Fayolle says, chefs must taste things all day long, and the frequent snacking can throw off metabolism. To cope with the nutritional challenges, Fayolle says it has been indispensable to have the help of his trainer and nutritionist, Trent Anderson of NuEnergy. “I couldn’t have done it without him,” says Fayolle.
Fayolle first joined Clifton earlier this year as sous chef. Now that he has become Executive Chef, guests can expect a new menu soon. Stay tuned.