Thank You, Andrew Silver, for Zocalo

by Charlottesville29

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Andrew Silver (right) with Ivan Rekosh. (Photo by Jen Fariello.)

Andrew Silver, the first ever participant in Five Finds on Friday, and co-founder of Zocalo, is moving on. Since opening Zocalo together fourteen years ago, Silver and Ivan Rekosh have been virtually attached at the hip. After meeting on the first day of culinary school in 1998, the two became fast friends, sharing both passion and talent for food. But when they moved to Charlottesville in 2002 to open a restaurant with Peter Castiglione, they could not have imagined the fixture it would become.

With the founding philosophy “Happy People Unite,” Zocalo is one of the great successes of the current era of Charlottesville dining. In 2012, Zocalo was the first entrant into The Charlottesville 29, and has remained there ever since. Beloved by chefsfootball legends, writers, and others, the restaurant at the heart of our downtown mall has a been a model of consistency in an industry where change is constant. Is any Charlottesville restaurant more reliable? When you go to Zocalo, you know that the Chili Broth Steamed Mussels are going to be great. As is the Spicy Tuna Tartare. And the Vella Jack Cheese Fritters. And the Key Lime Free Range Chicken. And the Black Bean and Corn Relleno. And the service. And the experience. Silver’s relentless commitment to his work has been a huge part of that.

But, time waits for no one. Now a father of two, Silver is ready for the next phase of his life – a job with Roots Natural Kitchen, the growing franchise that Silver and Rekosh helped launch in 2015. As Roots’ new Corporate Chef, Silver will help the company continue its rapid growth, while maintaining the high food standards that has made it so popular in Charlottesville, where lines out the door form daily. Silver’s initial focus will be Roots’ new catering space in the former home to St. Maarten Cafe, which will be a template for future Roots’ locations.

There is good news, though, for Charlottesville diners – a silver lining in Silver’s leaving. Thanks to Rekosh, Zocalo is not going anywhere. While regulars can expect more of the same, Rekosh does have some interesting tweaks planned, too. Stay tuned for details of those.

Meanwhile, Silver will be missed. Thank you, Andrew, for fourteen great years and for creating something special for Charlottesville.

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Rekosh, Castiglione, and Silver, in 2003.

In the kitchen, duos are rare. Egos leave little room for both Abbott & Costello. Rather, it’s just Batali, or Jeon Georges, or Wolfgang Puck. Anyone who wonders how Rekosh and Silver pulled it off need only read their own words as they turn the page:

Silver:

It has been an inside joke at Zocalo for some time now that Ivan is “Dad” and I am “Mom.” While at first the moniker did not sit well with me, I soon realized its true meaning. Ivan has always been the “fix it” guy, and I have been more more of the nurturer to the staff.  While I am proud of the business accomplishments that Ivan and I have achieved over the past fourteen years, our greatest accomplishment has been creating an atmosphere for our staff that feels like home, like a family. It is to this family that I am forever grateful for being such pros that I have been able to be a good father and husband to my family in a business that is supposed to make that impossible. Zocalo will always be my home and I will always be its “Mom.” As my fingers press these keys, it dawns upon me how lucky I have been to have something that is so hard to say goodbye to.

Rekosh:

I need to speak of Andrew with two different hats on. First as a business partner and second as a friend. Andrew’s commitment to Zocalo and our community are inspiring. His loyalty to his staff and customers was visible in every decision he made. I will continue to carry on in the tradition of “customer and staff above self.”  I know he will take these traits with him on his next venture as well. I am very excited to see what Andrew creates.

And now, with a tear in my eye . . . Andrew as a human. One of the kindest, most giving, sincerest men I know. I am grateful to have the honor to call a him friend, a brother, and a partner. His commitment to his family, my family, our Zocalo family and really all families everywhere is at the root of the kind of man he is. While Zocalo will miss Andrew’s sense of humor and bad jokes and general zest for life, we all feel very lucky to have had him in our lives for as long as we have.

Man I feel like I’m writing an obituary . . . bottom line here: Andrew is awesome. I love him and am grateful for what we’ve created and continue to create. While our partnership may be over on paper it will continue for the rest of our lives.

Wow. Good thing that Atlanta pizza shop never panned out.