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In my Chinese family, love was expressed on the plate, not through words. My Popo, Cantonese for grandmother, never once said the “L” word, yet she was always there with wonton noodles and congee by the nourishing bowlful and dumplings she filled and counted out by hand.

It’s no wonder that, since leaving home, my affection for food has carried me through life. During college, I took a job on campus just so I could afford to dine at New York City’s best restaurants. I wrote food columns for my college newspaper so I could talk to visionary chefs and restaurateurs like Alice Waters. And I interned for a James Beard award-winning chef back home in Hawaii, simply to learn about the restaurant business.

Even my relationship with my husband has revolved around food. Living in New York City, eating out was my respite from the stresses of law firm life. After seven years, we’d mastered the city’s food scene and tasted some of everything it had to offer, from hole-in-the-walls to Michelin-starred restaurants.

This last year, my husband became a University of Richmond law professor. My only concern about moving: the food. Boy was I wrong. Richmond has a burgeoning food scene, and its chefs are doing things that are, in many ways, more interesting than the offerings of chefs in big cities.

Chefs here are introducing us to lesser-known ethnic foods, turning them into tastes we can recognize and even crave. Others are brilliantly but faithfully reimagining classic cuisine. Still others are experimenting with local ingredients to achieve a new balance of flavors and textures. I could go on. Richmond’s food scene, much like the city, is a well-kept secret. As your newest restaurant critic, I’m ready to blow this secret wide open.

My philosophy on food writing is simple: It should help you understand, not simply judge, what you’re eating. It should tell you more than you can glean from Yelp. It should explore what restaurants are trying to achieve and how their food ties into broader trends and themes. Above all, it should make you hungry.

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— Justin Lo

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