Christopher and Heather Morgan envision opening a Main Street restaurant called “Oak ’n Barrel” featuring a regional cuisine with the slogan, “Eating well done easy.”
With dishes that range from traditional family Italian-American recipes, to seafood and steaks, the plan is for customers to eat well. And the “easy” part would be offering ready-made meals customers can pick up hot on their way home from work, or that they can heat up once they get home.
The Morgans, both teachers, are one of 10 prospective businesses in the running to be one of three proposals selected from a pool of local entrepreneurs to share a combined value of $95,000 in goods, services and start-up capital to launch a business on Main Street. The Launch Gloucester program is part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia Community Business Launch initiative and is locally overseen by Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust and Gloucester Main Street Association.
Christopher Morgan grew up in Utica, New York.
“The culture, the community I lived in, it was all about the food,” he says. “It’s been about the food for the last 100 years.”
His family has a background in the restaurant business, with his grandfather owning an Italian restaurant. But keeping it wasn’t in the cards, literally; Morgan says his grandfather lost the restaurant in a poker game.
Christopher Morgan has always kept his hands in the restaurant business, through college and into his adult years even though he’s been a teacher for more than 20 years.
For the past 10 to 12 years, Christopher Morgan has worked with friends Nancy Carter and Steve Brackbill, the owner and chef, respectively, at The Oaks Restaurant in Lively on the Northern Neck. The Oaks has a menu ranging from soft-shell crabs plucked right out of Chesapeake Bay, to bacon-wrapped barbecue shrimp, to crab and asparagus soup, to its signature ribeye steaks.
Over the years, Christopher Morgan hosted parties with friends and after trying his food, got asked to do some catering. He says he tries to keep to his Utica roots with Italian-American dishes, but envisions expanding to a regional cuisine with Oak ‘n Barrel.
Dishes the Morgans intend to offer include ones handed down through the family over the years such as “Greens,” which is greens topped with escarole, sweet cherry peppers, onion, garlic, prosciutto ham and mozzarella combined with steak, chicken or fish. Other dishes will be crab cakes and other seafood, chicken, beef, or even homestyle fare such as pork chops and mashed potatoes.
“We want to be seasonal,” Christopher Morgan says. “We want to meet the demands of the area. Oysters, for example. That’s a niche that may be needed to fill. My family recipes are unique to my upbringing that I want to try and promote down here.”
With the plans for offering meals on the go, Christopher Morgan also says he wants to explore offering a mobile service where customers can go online and select a meal, then pick it up say in Gloucester Point on the way home from work.
“The goal is to meet the needs of the Gloucester community the best way we can,” he says.
The Launch Gloucester experience has also been an amazing education for the Morgans. “It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience and I wish the best to all the classmates slash contestants,” Christopher Morgan says. “They deserve the best.”