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December 8, 2020

Faces of Fauquier: From dishwasher to top chef

Photo/Don Del Rosso
“I’ve worked with the same people for a number of years in the kitchen, and they’ve become my second family,” Claire’s Executive Chef Anna Crossman says. “And that’s kept me going — challenging myself.”
I love the ability to work with great people and produce a great, consistent product. I love being able to help provide a place where people can go and know they’re going to have a good meal.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Warrenton restaurant executive chef tells a classic one-thing-led-to-another tale of how she found a career in the kitchen.

In 1996, Anna Crossman picked up part-time weekend work, initially washing dishes for Old Town-based Claire’s Catering Co. At the time, Ms. Crossman served as office manager for her father’s Warrenton chiropractic practice.

Ms. Crossman, 50, took the part-time catering job on a whim.

A friend who worked for Claire’s said the business needed a dishwasher.

“ ‘Would I be interested’?” Ms. Crossman recalled. “I didn’t have anything to do. So, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give you a hand’. . . . It was just something to get me out of the house. I didn’t have very many friends here in Fauquier.”

After taking on more and more catering duties, she joined the business full-time in 1999.

In 2005, catering company owner Claire Lamborne opened Claire’s at the Depot, a restaurant at 65 S. Third St. in Old Town.

“And, I went with her” to help launch the eatery, Ms. Crossman said.

Learning on the job, she rose to the kitchen’s sous chef by 2015.

That year, Claire’s executive chef quit because of a family health problem. With no immediate prospects to fill the job, Ms. Lamborne offered it to Ms. Crossman.

“I was totally blown away and said, ‘Yeah’,” when Ms. Lamborne proposed that she run the kitchen.

Ms. Crossman’s time at the restaurant prepared her well to the lead the eight- to 10-member kitchen staff.

Over the years, she helped train numerous kitchen workers and acquired a deep understanding of the owner’s “vision” for the restaurant, expectations and commitment to quality.

“It’s collaborative,” the chef said of her relationship with Ms. Lamborne.

Working from six binders containing 300 to 400 recipes, the two meet Mondays to plan the week’s menu.

“It’s American, with a Southern flair, but also pulling from different cuisines of the world,” Ms. Crossman said the restaurant’s cooking style. “We have some Asian things on the menu right now, and people really enjoy those.”

• Age
50

• Home
Near Warrenton

• Work
Chef, Claire’s at the Depot, Warrenton 2015 to present; sous chef and line cook, Claire’s at the Depot; 2005-15; held various positions, Catering by Claire, 1995 to 2005.

• Why do you do the job?
I love the ability to work with great people and produce a great, consistent product. I love being able to help provide a place where people can go and know they’re going to have a good meal.

I’ve worked with the same people for a number of years in the kitchen, and they’ve become my second family. And that’s kept me going — challenging myself.

• Family
Husband Chris, 55; stepson Nate, 34, and son Sebastian, 18.

• Education
Bachelor’s degree, English, St. Andrews (N.C.) University, 1992; Caddo (La.) Parish Magnet High School, 1988.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
About 31 years.

• Why do you live here?
My parents moved here. After college graduation, I stayed with them, and I love it.

The county’s really close to Northern Virginia, so you can enjoy everything that Northern Virginia has to offer. But you just cross that Fauquier County line, and it’s just like the fast-paced city life just sort of stops. And you can take a deep breath and relax.

• How do you describe this county?
It’s almost like an isolated bubble — city life and rural life — we’ve got the best of both worlds.

I think it’s really special. The crime rates so low you don’t have to worry about walking down the street at night. There are other parts of the world where you have to look over your shoulder. You don’t have to worry about that here.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I would love to see someplace for older kids to gravitate, gather and socialize. You’ve got the WARF, which is great for sports and going to the pool. But, there’s not really any place for kids to congregate. I’d like to see something like an outdoor skating rink as maybe an extension of the WARF.

• What do you do for fun?
I don’t have a lot of time for fun; I work a lot.

On Sundays I just really enjoy relaxing with my family. We loved going to the movies, when the movies were open. We do play some online video games together. I like doing yard work.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
I really don’t have a favorite place. I love driving on (Route) 17, going north. it’s just so peaceful. You’ve got the rolling hills. You can see the horse farms, bales of hay in the fields.

And I love driving on (Route) 211, after you pop over those hills and come into Warrenton. I love that little scene of the little town. And I love Old Town and Main Street. It’s pretty unique.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I worry about that. I know it’s going to be more developed. I know there’s going to be more subdivisions.

I think that Gainesville will slowly extend its reach to the Fauquier County line. I hope it won’t go over the line.

• Favorite TV show?
“American Pickers”

• Favorite movie?
I don’t have just one. My top three: “Lord of the Rings,” “The Fifth Element” and “The Goonies.”

• Favorite book?
“Beard on Bread” by James Beard.

• Favorite vacation spot?
Outer Banks, N.C.

• Favorite food?
There’s nothing so delicious for me as a fresh peach.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
Maybe not in specific words — be true to yourself. That’s what my mom and dad tried to teach me.

I think honesty and integrity are important. If you’re true to yourself, you’ll make your way in the world. And you’ll do as best you can and, hopefully, leave it a better place.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My mom battled breast cancer for almost two years (and died from the disease in 2013). And she showed such grace and courage in such a physically and emotionally painful time that it just takes my breath away to think about what she went through.

She maintained her love for everybody. Her calmness and strength were just amazing.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I’d have to sit down first and check my numbers again.

Then I’d get an accountant and tax attorney. I’d take a long vacation, and I’d buy Claire’s at the Depot. And then I’d get back to work.

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Savefauquiercounty2019 · December 10, 2020 at 3:50 pm
We love the entire dining experience at Claire's. They serve a plate of royalty. Sorry to hear about your mom!!! She must be very proud.
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