Chef Melissa Close

Executive Chef at Mockingbird Restaurant

Charlottesville, VA

Chef Melissa Close

Meet Chef Melissa Close-Hart

Melissa Close-Hart grew up in Mobile, AL and credits her first and foremost culinary influence as her mother. Melissa’s mother taught her the indispensable attribute of cooking without a recipe and with whatever food products were on hand. Growing up in a middle class family, Melissa was not exposed to expensive, haute cuisine, but was taught to appreciate wholesome, fresh cooked southern “soul food.”

She got her first job during high school at a fast food restaurant where she learned the importance of efficiency, speed, cleanliness, inventory control and work ethic. When she went off to college she got a job in a small, independently owned short order restaurant where she learned the art of smoking meats and running a fast paced grill station. When a full service restaurant opened in the small town, she decided to apply for a cook position. She was hired and within six months the chef told her that she would never be the school teacher that she was studying to become, but would be a chef.

Chef Melissa’s Culinary Journey

Chef Melissa has traveled the world and learned in kitchens from Italy to San Fransico, CA. She has been invited five times to cook dinners at the famed James Beard House in NYC. She has also been nominated as a semifinalist for the Best Chef – Mid Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation four times. Melissa was inducted in the Chaine des Rôtisseurs in 2004.

Embarking on a New Adventure

The mission of Mockingbird is to feed the soul with southern charm and the bounty of Virginia. The partners redesigned the interior to have a warm, inviting feel full of antiques, plants and beautiful moss walls. This was to give the diner the feel of sitting in a familiar space with warmth and love. Melissa has put her heart and soul into the menu as well as the space. The doors opened July 2022 to a warm reception of anticipation from the town. Mockingbird continues to get positive reviews for its refined southern cuisine and hopes to continue to build its customers over the years.