Independent chef, Britt Shyrene, is passionate about sourcing local. So passionate in fact, that most weekends you’ll find her strolling through farmers' markets in search of new and interesting ingredients. Her Instagram feed is full of colorful dishes inspired by her farmers market hauls.
“I just want to show people what can be done with food that is grown, literally, right next door!,” she says. “We live in a beautiful area and it’s these farms that help make it so beautiful. Farmers need a thriving market to keep doing what they’re doing, and I just want to be part of that.”
Finding food and creating beautiful, delicious recipes is at the heart of her career. She’s known for her beautiful plating (just look at those insta-pics!) and she’s actively cultivating her skills at pairing ingredients on the spot.
It’s her plating and meal prep talents that caught the eye of the producer for HGTV’s new show, Supermarket Stakeout. Staged in pop-up kitchens outside of supermarkets, host Alex Guarnaschelli (Iron Chef, Chopped) gives four competing chefs $500 each to use to purchase groceries from shoppers as they exit the stores. That budget has to last for 3 rounds of cooking. It’s a test of not just their cooking talent, but also their ability to negotiate and plan on the spot, all while the clock’s ticking. “Needless to say, it was really intense,” Chef Britt chuckled when describing the show.
Intensity doesn’t seem to phase Chef Britt. While she comes from a family immersed in the foodservice industry (her grandfather was CEO of Richfood, and her father owns a Texas Roadhouse) Britt didn’t make the leap to become a chef until she was 29, and a mother of two small children.
“All my life, my grandmother kept encouraging me to cook for people, and for some reason I resisted it,” she tells us. “I got to a point in my life where things weren’t working, and I just decided to go for it. You know, that thing where they tell you to do what you love and you’ll never feel like you’re working again.”
She enrolled in the culinary program at Ivy Tech Community College in Muncie, Indiana, and majored in both pastry and culinary arts. While in school, she also worked three other jobs at a convention center, a grill, and a destination restaurant.
“My kids and I weren’t in the greatest situation, and I was working hard to get us to a new place,” she shares. “I took on all of that because I wanted to immerse myself in the shortest time possible.” Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Chef Britt moved with her girls to recharge in Florida. It ended up being a boon to her cooking career though, before long she was working under a Michelin starred chef, further honing her craft. Six months later she was on her way back to Ashburn, Virginia, where she spent much of her teen years and early adult life.
“I just love the region. It’s so beautiful here, and there are lots of food resources for a chef,” she enthused. “Now more than ever, if we want to keep these green open spaces, then we’ve got to support our local farmers! I’ve been building relationships with local farmers, and I love that if I need an ingredient I can probably get it right here!”
After two years at Northern Virginia’s O’Faolain’s Pub, where she earned critical acclaim for her inventive takes on traditional Irish fare, Chef Britt is finally at the place she wanted to be: an independent chef, making her own menus and planning her time around the busy schedules of two small girls.
“I’ve done so much in such a short time. It’s all coming together now. My own business, guest-chef at Taste of Blue Ridge, and now this HGTV project. It’s really been a great year!”
You can find Chef Britt at pop-ups, private dinners, and developing cooking classes in Ashburn, Virginia. You can also follow her on Instagram @brittshyrene, and watch her prepare beautiful and tasty meals crafted from her weekend farmers market foraging.