Eternal Flame

Remembering Monroe Duncan, Cova’s First Celebrity Chef

Patrick Evans-Hylton and other local restauranteurs remember Monroe Duncan

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I knew of Monroe Duncan before I knew Monroe Duncan. How could you care about good food, live in the region and not?

The iconic chef was larger-than-life, having been part of the area’s cuisine scene, off-and-on (mostly on) for decades.

His resume is as long as was his appetite for life: The Nation’s Room at the Golden Triangle, The Chamberlin Hotel, Simply Divine Dahlings, Suddenly Last Summer, Monroe’s Mocambo, The Blue Crab, Piranha – An Eating Frenzy, Todd Jurich’s Bistro and Smithfield Inn, but to name a few.

Along the way, he not only fed patrons, but other chef’s careers, too.

The chef, or Le Chef, the moniker he liked, died in June in his sleep in Chicago, where he had called home for the past few years. He was in his mid-70s.

His personal style and his cooking style were both forces to be reckoned with.

Monroe wore bright shirts and combat boots. He challenged himself, his staff, and the palate of Coastal Virginia. He pushed, and pushed hard. He was a fierce, roaring lion one minute, and a sweet, purring kitten the next.

His food was creative, utilizing local ingredients with classic techniques. There may have been others like him in other cities, but not here, not at the time.

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