A Berkeley Springs chef has been named one of nine new “Chef Ambassadors” for West Virginia.
Governor Jim Justice lauded Berkeley Springs local Damian Heath and eight other top-level chefs from across West Virginia as one of the state’s first Chef Ambassadors at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held in Huntington earlier this month.
Executive Chef Damian Heath, representing West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, owns Lot 12 Public House with his wife Betsy Heath. He is the son of Jan and Jonathan Heath of Heath Studio Gallery in Berkeley Springs.
West Virginia’s Chef Ambassador program is a new initiative from the Department of Tourism to promote local Appalachian cuisine. It will include media events and promotional activities, educational training and seminars.
According to the Department of Tourism, West Virginia has the most family-owned farms in the country, and the culinary industry is a strong contributor to tourism growth, representing over 28,000 jobs and about 3,200 restaurants statewide.
“This program is so needed to help take West Virginia’s culinary industry to the next level, and I truly believe we have recruited some of the best and brightest West Virginia chefs for the job. I can’t wait to see all the wonderful projects and big ideas they will cultivate over the next year and beyond,” said Gov. Justice of the state’s new Chef Ambassador program.
“Travelers spend more than $1.2 billion each year within West Virginia’s food service industry. That’s big business for the Mountain State,” said West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby.
Chef Ambassadors were nominated and selected from each of the state’s nine travel regions. Chef Heath will represent the Eastern Panhandle.
Appointment to Chef Ambassador is based on a set of evaluation criteria, such as years of experience in the food service industry, demonstration of leadership within the local community, innovation and culinary excellence in the workplace, as well as support of West Virginia agriculture, according to officials at the Department of Tourism.
In addition to Heath, representing the Eastern Panhandle, other Chef Ambassadors are Karie Ellis, Executive Chef of Trail 12 BBQ in the Hatfield-McCoy mountain region; Paul Smith, owner and Executive Chef of 1010 Bridge & The Pitch in the Metro Valley region; Yancy Roush, chef at The Blennerhassett Hotel in the Mid-Ohio Valley region; Elizabeth Nolle, Executive Chef of The Vault On Main: Restaurant & Wine Bar in the Mountain Lakes region; Cody Thrasher, owner and Executive Chef of Cody’s Restaurant in the Mountaineer Country region; Jared Masters, Executive Chef of The French Goat in the New River-Greenbrier Valley; Matt Welsch, owner and Executive Chef of Vagabond Kitchen in the Northern Panhandle; and Tiffiny Villar, owner chef of Farm Up Table in the Potomac Highlands region.