Before moving to the lake, I (Kristin) ran a bed and breakfast just over the mountain in Roanoke. We loved our time living in the Historic Grandin Village – it's like a mini city within the city that has a culture all its own. One of the best parts was having a dozen restaurants we could easily walk or bike to - a perk we took full advantage of.
It was at one of these regular haunts that we met Chef Nate Sloan. At the time, he had recently moved back to the area from Asheville, NC. We knew him first as the friendly neighborhood bartender who remembered not only our names, but our preferences in wines and cocktails, and what was going on in our lives circa the last time we visited. On slower nights, we always enjoyed catching up and hearing about his dream of opening his own restaurant nearby one day.
That dream eventually grew into a clear vision, which started gaining momentum, and then investors, and then a building, and then a name, and before we knew it, bloom had become a reality! He lived just a few streets over from us, and whether we were chatting across the bar, over snacks on our front porch, or when he was passing by on a walk, keeping abreast of the evolution of what bloom was becoming, and eventually became, was so inspiring.
Nate knew that he not only had the task of creating an environment that would draw people into the newly awakening Wasena business strip, but along with it there was the need to educate the Valley on the concept of small plate dining - something Roanoke had not yet experienced much of.
But he was up to the challenge.
He brings to the (literal) table a childhood that instilled in him a deep love for growing his own food and living a seasonal, sustainable life - thanks to growing up on an organic farm in Ferrum. Sloan's culinary style respects even the most humble of ingredients and elevates them to works of art. Each dish (as locally sourced as possible) is a veritable feast for eyes, nose, and palate - composed with such attention to detail, your senses will be singing with every plate designed under his artistic eye.
While much has been said about his training, numerous accolades as a chef, and passion for community involvement, what I appreciate most is his incredible down-to-earth-ness. He is right there in the trenches beside all of his employees, at the restaurant during off hours experimenting with how to perfect new additions to the menu, making those of us who have known him for a while feel seen and special every time we walk in, and steering his ship with a quiet confidence that is not afraid to bend and adjust to the changing tides (such as the pandemic lockdown striking just after opening their doors).
bloom is a true gem of the Star City and an easy 30-minute drive from the Westlake area. Check out our social channels this week for a couple insider tips on dining at bloom and keep it on your radar filed under “one of the most unique and memorable culinary experiences around.” Reservations (recommended) can be made on their website.
Photo credits: Gina Schauland, bloom, Otto Tyler, Kemper Fant Photography
This story was originally featured in The Current, a twice-monthly publication based at Smith Mountain Lake and highlighting the people, places, businesses, art, etc. that make up the 'current' of our greater Southwestern Virginia community. To subscribe (it's free!), CLICK HERE.