What began, according to area legend, as a communal meal prepared for a hunting expedition on the banks of the Nottoway River in 1828, the cooking of Brunswick Stew has evolved into a time-honored tradition—a staple at community gatherings, a source of regional pride, the focus of spirited competition, and a true Virginia culinary art.
In Brunswick County and around the state, the eight hour process of cooking a hundred or so gallons of stew is performed in fire houses and other community gathering places by groups of men, or “crews.” Each crew is led by a “Stewmaster,” a title that takes years to attain. Originally from Lynchburg, Virginia, Randy Bush first learned the craft of cooking Brunswick Stew from Stewmaster Norman Long in Caroline County.
Over the past several decades, Randy has cooked stews both in competitions and as fundraisers for local charities. Randy is now a Stewmaster himself, leading the Richmond area-based Red, White, and Blue Stew Crew, which has received 27 awards, including five first place blue ribbons at the State Fair of Virginia. In addition to Stewmaster, Randy has become a recognized historian of Brunswick stew, and assisted with the acclaimed 2008 book America Eats! On the Road with the WPA.