Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin of Magnolias at the Mill Brings Regional Cooking to the Shenandoah Valley

“Here at Magnolias we get in whole animals and fabricate them down. What I’ve brought to every kitchen is how to properly and respectfully handle the food that you govern.”   

Born in Clinton, Maryland but raised in both Virginia and Maryland, Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin is quite a remarkable culinary artist with an inspiring history. He was not formally trained in the culinary world but learned from some of the top chefs in the country. Erik is currently working as the head Chef at Magnolias at the Mill in Purcellville, Virginia. Magnolias at the Mill was built in 1905 originally and was used in the production of pastured seeds as well as used to grind and press flower. On February 2004, Magnolias at the Mill was re-opened continuing the focus of being a vital piece in the Loudoun Community. Located in Purcellville, Virginia, Magnolias is a new American dining restaurant that serves lunches and dinners which includes soups, salads, grilled specialties, house specialties, sandwiches, pizzas, as well as imported and domestic wines and beers.

How did you find yourself down here in Virginia from Maryland?

“I moved here to Virginia when I was 10 years old. I had family who still lived in Maryland so I spent a lot of time getting ping ponged back in forth between both areas. My mom was a single mother so I started to mess around in the kitchen when I was about 8 years old, and really enjoyed it. My dad worked in construction and built a restaurant called the Fuddruckers in Herndon, Virginia in 1989/90, when I was 14 years old. I got my first job there and haven’t strayed from the path of cooking since then. When I first began there my capacity was a butcher’s apprentice, working in the bakery, and cooking on the grill.”

What was your favorite dish as a child?

Country ham, blackberry preserves, and lard biscuit. My great grandmother taught me how to cook this meal. Their garden was my great grandparents, it was in the middle of several farms in the Clinton/Brandywine area of Maryland.”

Do you have any formal training or have you learned from experience alone?

“I’ve learned all of my skills from hands-on experiences with other Chefs. I got on with the Hyatt (Hotel Corporation an American International Company and operator of hotels) and the chef that I got on board with had worked for the Hyatt hotel for more than 30 years, and he knew everyone in the company. He sent me to various different hotels across the United States to train under different chefs and learn what they know. I worked at the lodge in Chicago under their chef where I got involved in a lot of butchery steaks. I worked at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, FL and got a taste for tropical Caribbean element at large volume. I worked in California for a while and Colorado, so I was basically cooking regionally, broadening my culinary horizons.”

Is there anyone who specifically inspired you to become a chef?

“A gentleman by the name of Chef Willi Franz, he is still a chef out in Monterey, California. He taught people and included everyone in whatever was being taught, he never left anyone out, and gave them the opportunity to be taught in a positive manner. He individually managed each person, getting them excited about what they were doing on a daily basis. His goal was to give back what was given to him. By watching him, I have internalized by doing the same, teaching others my knowledge with positivity and precision. 
I’ve always believed in showing people things and teaching them is the most effective way to learn.”

What styles have you brought into the kitchen based your experiences?

I would say classic fabrication, the breaking down of raw goods, and fine-tuning them. Here at Magnolias we get in whole animals and fabricate them down. We learn what to do with each part of the animal. We get in random large amounts of fresh vegetables and fabricate them how they need to be cut and preserved. What I’ve brought to every kitchen that I’ve been in control of especially this one, is how to properly and respectfully handle the food that you govern.”

What is the key ingredient of becoming and maintaining success as a chef?

“Working with no ego and being hungry to teach others.”


Snack Bites:

My guilty pleasure snack is: Peanut Butter Cups

My most essential item in the kitchen is: Steel Mixing Bowl

My favorite tool is: Mandoline

The one condiment I can’t live without is: Duke’s Mayo