Sep 4th, 2015

Meet Chef Anne Maury Haapala

Anne Maury Haapala

Garden Cafe Chef Anne Maury Haapala chatting with customers in the cafe. Can you tell she loves her job?

Meet Anne Maury Haapala, Café Lead at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Garden Café by Meriwether Godsey.  Meriwether Godsey is the exclusive caterer for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and also operates both the Garden Café and the Robins Tea House. Take it away Anne Maury!

Q: Tell us about your job,  what do you do?

A: I oversee the Garden Café in all food-related aspects.  I create the sandwich menu that changes 3 to 4 times a year.  I create and execute the daily hot special and the soup of the day.  I oversee the products that go into the grab and go cooler and the dry goods that line our shelves. But most of all, I work with a fantastic team to bring our guests great food at a quick pace so that they can continue on with their day after a great meal from the Garden Cafe.  We recognize that the Garden is what brings people into our café so we just strive to be the icing on the cake (pun intended!).

Q: What is your favorite part about working at Meriwether Godsey, and at the Garden in particular?

A: My favorite part about working at Meriwether Godsey at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is the here I am able to cook from the heart.  It may sound silly, but there are many chefs in the world that wish they could use the freshest and quality ingredients that I have available to me and make what they want to make. Meriwether Godsey has an extensive list of wonderful recipes and I am able to choose what to make every day based on the ingredients that are fresh and in season.  The Garden Café is a platform for me to do what I love, but most of all it also allows me to express my delight in cooking to be enjoyed by the guests that join us for a meal or quick snack.  Chefs are sometimes bound to their kitchens which are, for the most part, not in the public eye.  I get the opportunity to see the faces of all of the guests that come through.  Ask them what they like, what they don’t like. I make suggestions for them and tell them what we are all about at the Garden Café.  I hope it’s as fun for the guests as it is for me!  I truly enjoy talking to people and have already found that we have a wonderful group of regulars and Garden staff that frequent the café.  The outpouring of support from these folks has been unbelievable and I owe it to the management and my co-workers who allow me to do what I love to do.  How lucky am I?!

My favorite item on the menu at the Garden Cafe’ currently (I’m sure it will change with the seasons) is that we receive the most wonderful fresh ingredients grown right here in the Children’s Garden.  During growing season we get a fresh harvest delivery least 3 times a week – fresh basil, gorgeous cherry tomatoes of all colors and precious baby eggplants.  Again…I can’t say it enough…what other chef has this opportunity!?  Fresh produce grown on site and brought to me from smiling people?  No one has it this good!

Q: Where did you work before you  were Café Lead at the Garden Café at Lewis Ginter  Botanical Garden?

A: After earning a degree in hospitality and tourism from Virginia Tech, I went right into my field as a restaurant manager for a full service Marriott in Baltimore, MD.  I worked hard to learn the trade for 3 years and then became an event manager for the same property.  I handled weddings, professional sports teams and corporate events on a large scale and began to realize that I wanted to work more with my hands…with food…something very close to my heart.  So, I uprooted my life in Baltimore and moved to Charlotte, NC to study Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University.  After an intense 9 month program and a 6 month internship at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., I was hired as a Sous Chef at a platinum country club in Charlotte, where I stayed for 3 years.  I worked under the executive chef there who was an American Culinary Federation “culinary Olympics” gold medalist. I learned so much from him and the other leaders at this club.  I met my husband there, and when he was offered a chef position at the Country Club of Virginia in 2013 we found our way back home to Virginia.

Q: What’s  your favorite thing to eat at the Garden Café? What’s  your favorite thing to make?

A: My favorite thing to eat at the Garden Café is the Hot Ham & Brie….wait, the Italian…well today it’s the Tuna Melt.  I love it all…I love food (obviously) and the current menu was my first opportunity to create my own sandwich recipes for the Garden Café so I am a little bias towards all of our choices.  But to be honest, you can’t go wrong with any of our sandwiches, grab and go items or the salad bar. The diversity of the food we offer is why the Café is wonderful for the wide-range of guests who visit us daily.  Everyone can find something that suits their palette, and if they can’t, we will do our best to accommodate special requests whenever we can. Maybe you don’t know, we offer gluten free bread.

My favorite item to create at the Café right now is the hot soups.  Soup is a special thing for people.  If you think about it, soup is what your mom served you when you didn’t feel well.  Soup may remind you of a special holiday or an event in your life.  Soup can warm you up on a cold day and I have come to find out that the temperature outside does not necessarily dictate a cold or a hot soup.  Guests tell me that they enjoy the crab soup even if it is 100 degrees outside!  Now that is saying a lot for Meriwether Godsey’s red pepper and crab soup recipe.  But after a hot summer of making a mostly of cold soups, I am thoroughly enjoying bringing back hot soup favorites, in particular the chowder and bisque.  Nothing says bring on the cold weather like a potato and bacon chowder or a good cup of chili!

Q: What’s your favorite thing to order at the Robins Tea House (if you have one).

A: I have to admit that I haven’t been able to have lunch at the Robins Tea House yet, but I have had the opportunity to work with Chef Lisa Ledgerwood on a Farm to Table Wine Dinner in the Rose Garden. (If this sounds good to you the next wine dinner is coming up on September 23, theme: A Ride Around the World).  Everything Ledgerwood makes is fabulous, but I especially love her spicy stuffed poblano pepper and her handmade flatbreads.  She rolls her own dough at the Tea House and the texture and flavor is amazing!  She does a great job there and I hope to collaborate with her more in the future.

Q: Tell us something  about you that your co-workers might not know.

Anne Maury Haapala and her Poker chip ordering sytem

Garden Cafe Chef Anne Maury Haapala shows the key to her poker chip system that Cafe staff use to track lunch orders as they are made. She invented this system so that staff could work efficiently as a team, without having to write down each order.

A: Something about me that my co-workers may not know is that my first name is a double name – Anne Maury.  Named after my distant relative, Matthew Fontaine Maury, whose statue can be viewed right here in town on Monument Avenue.  I was born here in Richmond, but moved to Lynchburg, Va. when I was 3 years old.  I have a lot of ties to this city and am so thankful that my husband and I have decided to come back to Virginia after our time in North Carolina.  I introduce myself as Anne (despite my parents’ reaction – “that’s not your name!”) because some folks have a hard time with double names or more likely I say it too fast and they don’t catch the full name.  From then on they are nervous they will mispronounce my double name.  I completely understand and for that reason I will answer to “Anne”, “Anne Maury” or “HEY YOU!” They all work for me!

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: My husband and I have bought our first home located in a quaint neighborhood in Midlothian.  We have 3 acres and have absolutely loved creating nature trails through our woods, gardening and trying to keep up with our shaded landscape. On our days off we can be found in the garden, mowing the lawn and doing laundry.  Having 2 chefs in one house creates quite a bit of food-scented laundry that must be kept up with! We play a lot of ping pong and enjoy playing cards on our deck – not the exciting life of some, but it works for us.

A recent post to the Garden’s Facebook page, shows that Garden visitors are already starting to notice Anne Maury’s cooking.  

Hats and belts off to the new Chef Ann. I never look at the specials in the cafe, by habit I go to the great offerings at the salad bar. But today…something very special caught my eye. It had “comfort” written all over it. Beef brisket resting atop a pillow of coarse ground cheddar cheese grits, an island afloat in the most incredible au jus. Perfect bit with the fresh medley of seasonal veggies. I wanted to take out for dinner. Great job!!! Now I need another walk. Many thanks.

Having tasted her catfish when it was featured on daily special, and her shrimp salad from the salad bar, I’d have to agree!

Stay tuned: tomorrow on the blog we’ll feature recipes for Meriwether Godsey’s famous Red Pepper and Crab soup and Pimento Cheese!


Jonah Holland is PR & Marketing Coordinator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, specializing in social media. She's been known to go for a walk, and come back completely inspired to write a blog post on her newest found adventure.

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