Chef Bin Lu didn’t grow up learning how to cook. In fact, it wasn’t until he started school at the University of Virginia that he even began to think about it.
“I started cooking during my time in college, but I didn’t really know anything about it before then,” says Lu. The entire process of cooking, though, really intrigued him.
“It was really just starting off not knowing how to make something, and then the trial and error of realizing I could make it better. Making mistakes and then revising and improving—that’s what really drew me in,” says Lu. When his schooling was over, and he had a history degree in hand, Lu realized he had discovered a passion, but maybe not quite in the way he had expected.
“When I started cooking, I began doing some research, and by the time I graduated, I realized I had been more interested in cooking than anything I had learned in school.”
So he thought, The time to explore this newfound passion is now. And that exploration has taken him on quite a journey. Lu started in DC working as a line cook at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak in Georgetown before venturing to Los Gatos, California, to stage at David Kinch’s Manresa. Upon returning to the East Coast, he began working as a chef tournant at the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville, then staged for two months at Ben Shewry’s Attica restaurant in Melbourne.
In 2015, Lu took a position as executive sous chef at two-Michelin-star Pineapple and Pearls in DC and was promoted to head chef during his five years there. Pineapple and Pearls is currently closed.
These days, you can find Lu at the newly renovated Blue Rock in Shelbourne Falls, where he serves as their chef overseeing the Restaurant at Blue Rock as well as the adjoining tasting room. Blue Rock is located on 80 rolling acres in Rappahannock County and reopened in October.
Lu says many locals have a lot of deeply fond memories of the old Blue Rock, with many of them having gotten married there.
“It was really meaningful to them to see it come back to life, and the response has just been really positive,” says Lu.
For the new Blue Rock, Lu says they were aiming for providing an experience where everything sort of ties together.
“The property itself is really gorgeous, so the food is meant to be light and easy to eat while looking out over the ponds and grounds,” says Lu.
Speaking of the food, the Restaurant at Blue Rock has two menus that cater a bit to different audiences. There’s the tasting room, which can be enjoyed during the daytime or for dinner and offers casual smaller plates and what Lu describes as “a really great burger.”
“It’s more of a ‘stop in and try our wine or grab a beer or cocktail.’ It’s not something that you really need to plan for,” he says.
The experience at the restaurant, however, is a dinner consisting of four courses with a few different choices for each course.
“Just a really great meal on a really great property,” Lu says.
One interesting menu item is described by Lu as an intro snack.
“It’s like a tea where we steep the broth of a few different mushrooms seasoned with shoyu,” explains Lu. “It makes for a really layered, complex sort of flavor. It’s really warm and soothing.”
And the guests have responded really well to it.
“The menu has been changing throughout, however,” Lu says. “We make little tweaks daily, whether that be in how we plate something to how we prepare certain components.”
Lu also runs the wine program at Blue Rock.
“When making the selections, I have to really think about it, taking into consideration guest expectations, what they like and don’t like and how to make the food and wine work together,” he says. “It has been a really interesting process for me.”
Megan Herr is an editor and writer residing in the Shenandoah Valley. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Penn State University.
For more stories like this, subscribe to our Food newsletter.