Hyperbole becomes understatement when applied to the colorful, protean, phantasmagorical world of Sydney Meers. Yet beneath his playful, winking eccentricity lies a professional culinarian as disciplined in his craft as he is unbridled in his passion. He is the chef/owner/artist of Stove, named the area’s number one restaurant by Hampton Roads Magazine in 2008 for its seminal spin on neo-Southern cuisine.
Born in Senatobia, Mississippi (his lush Senatobia pie pays homage to his hometown via fruit, nuts, whiskey and Chantilly cream), Meers grew up helping at his grandmother’s café, Ma Johnson’s. He later served in the U.S. Air Force, and was stationed at Langley Air Force Base. While there, he immersed himself in classical technique and attended Johnson & Wales University, graduating with a degree in culinary arts in 1984 and apprenticing under Marcel Desaulniers at The Trellis in Williamsburg. He would later return to JWU, his alma mater, at the start of the new millennium as a gifted baking & pastry instructor.
Meers came to preeminence as a restaurateur in Hampton Roads starting in 1989 with his groundbreaking The Dumbwaiter, which helped usher in downtown Norfolk’s renaissance. He then became co-owner of Cowboy Syd’s, a cornerstone of Port Warwick in Newport News. He turned on Stove in 2006 in the emerging Port Norfolk neighborhood of Portsmouth and is in it’s 10th year now. Throughout the decades, his award-winning “cooking outside the box” has been hailed with frequent mentions in local, regional and national publications including The Virginian-Pilot, Port Folio Weekly, Virginia Living Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, Charlotte Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He also has appeared on all local networks as well as nationally on ABC’s Good Morning America. Sydney was selected as a James Beard Semi Finalist for Best Chef – Mid Atlantic Region 2016. In addition to working the range and running Stove, he also has a couple of condiment sauces he makes, his D-Lish Sauce and the ‘Not Hot’ chili pepper sauce.
A founding member of Slow Foods Hampton Roads, he was an early leader in supporting small local farmers and vintners. Meticulous and smart in sourcing ingredients, he even cultivates his own produce and brines and smokes his own ham. His wine list is the most compelling in the area and beyond.
Much of Meers’ own artwork — everything from acrylics to clay to photography — adorns Stove and his art, animated by a raw energy, has garnered acclaimed at shows including those at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Nancy Thomas Gallery in Yorktown and d’Art Center in Norfolk, where he’s also a board member. Indefatigable in his support of community, he has contributed to countless causes such as Samaritan House, Edmarc Hospice for Children and d’ART Center’s education fund, and he is often asked to return for an encore of his irrepressible role as Grand Marshal of Norfolk’s zany Doo-Dah Parade. On Meers’ annual anniversary at Stove which is on Halloween at 4pm he host the World’s Smallest Parade which last 5 minutes, then the judging of which he gives 1st and 5th place trophies and after some champagne toasting he then goes back to cooking for his guest.