Tribute to Tristan: The Charlottesville Food Community Remembers Chef Tristan Phillips

by Charlottesville29

This week the Charlottesville food community lost a young chef, far too soon. A lover of food, Tristan Phillips cooked at favorites like C&O, The Inn at Willow Grove, and Pippin Hill. Here, friends in the Charlottesville food community share treasured memories of Phillips’ life, through food.

A fundraiser has been established in Phillips memory. Info and donations here.

Daniel Watkins: “Back in June of 2019 Tristan and I set out on a trip up and down the east coast to follow a string of concerts. Tristan’s passion for food always led us to the best local restaurants everywhere we went, but my favorite memory was a simple concession stand sandwich I got to share with him at a Phish show in Maryland. Of course it was a pretty mediocre sandwich, and we did miss a couple of our favorite songs standing in line, but it was the most fun of the whole trip. Dancing and eating outside on one of the most beautiful days we had the pleasure of experiencing together. No matter where we were, what we were doing, or what we were eating, as long as I was with my best friend I was happy. I’m forever gonna miss Tristan and treasure the moments I got to share with him, and I know he’s in a better place.”

Drew Reynolds: “Tristan and I met back in high school, and he quickly showed me how passionate he was about cooking. Cooking was something I’d thought about for a career for a long time but I still say Tristan was the final and driving factor towards that decision. We would push each other sometimes to breaking points trying to get the best out of one another, and if there’s one thing I’ll never be as good as him at, it’s cooking a damn good steak. But this story isn’t about steak. My favorite food memory that Tristan and I got to share was so much simpler than grill cooking and the hustle and bustle of Saturday night service. Tristan and I had the same days off from C&O which made for some really fun ‘weekend.’  One weekend in particular our friend Danny had the same days off too. We were like the three musketeers and until we all got separate jobs it was hard to find one of us without the other two or at least one. This fine ‘weekend’ we all made it a point we were going to cook together. We all carpooled to Wegmans and probably spent a good two hours just wandering and pondering what we might fix. We decided on branzino. We bought a beautiful fish and some veggies, and set back for my place. We spent the whole afternoon cooking the fish over a fire, making a nice cioppino and enjoying a delicious meal together while outside basking in the sun. We drank beers until we all passed out in the basement of my house later that day, and shared funny stories both from our pasts or service experiences or anything else you can think of. It was pretty common for my two best friends to come over and eat something my mom or I had fixed, going back to when we met in high school, but it was rare we got to prepare and enjoy a whole meal together. I think of that meal every time I’m lucky enough to have branzino, and I doubt it’s a memory I’ll ever forget. Just as I doubt I’ll ever have a better grill cook/best friend behind me on the line. I love you little brother, and you are greatly, greatly missed. Rest easy, we know you’re watching to make sure we don’t overcook our steaks.”

Cecily Reynolds: “Tristan was a one-of-a-kind, with a huge beaming smile and an easy-going manner, always ready to laugh. One of my son’s besties, he was another son in my household, and I never knew when he’d just show up. Every time he would, though, there would be much discussion of food: what we’d been making recently, what we’d been eating recently,  and bouncing new ideas off of each other for what we’d make next. One way I could always ‘conjure’ him to show up unannounced was to make my country ribs, which was one of his favorite dishes of mine, and a great comfort food for him. Every single time I made them, no matter what, we NEVER had to tell him they were in the oven, he would just appear out of nowhere and happily consume huge quantities of them and take a ‘to-go’ container home with him, too. I will especially miss frequenting restaurants at which he was working, and especially miss already the days when he and Drew were at the C&O, as watching him bring out dishes he had especially prepared for me brought him a joy that was indescribable. He loved food, music, his friends, life, and living, and he sure will leave a great big hole in our hearts. But every time I make those ribs, I’ll still listen for his car and expect to see him pop through that door with a huge smile and a hungry stomach. Fly high, Tristan, may you Rest in Paradise.”

Emmanuelle Kahn: “Tristan, Drew and I would often take off to Lampo after weekend shifts at the C&O Restaurant. It was a place for us to talk and wind down after a long shift. As the former Chef De Cuisine of the C&O and Tristan a former Line Cook, I often wanted him to try dishes that he normally didn’t have exposure to. Escarole was one of those dishes. Tristan loved that dish, as did I. Escarole became his regular go to side dish at Lampo. Tristan, Drew, and I indulged many nights at Lampo with cheese plates, pizzas, meatballs, Brussels, olives, sandwiches, and of course Tristan’s favorite – Zeppole (ricotta doughnuts). Tristan was a talented cook who had an innate sense of how to make an exemplary dish. He chose quality over quantity every time. He will live on forever in me with his gentle heart. He will be missed dearly. “