Calvert Wingfield Johnston, 56, chef who owned and operated Blues Alley

Calvert Wingfield Johnston
Calvert Wingfield Johnston

Calvert Wingfield Johnston, 56, died Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. He was born Tuesday, June 13, 1963, at Norfolk General Hospital and lived in the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area the vast majority of his life.

He attended First Colonial High School, where he played tennis and baseball and made several lifelong friends. He was an avid dancer and freestyle roller skater in his younger years and competed in many Tidewater competitions into his 20s.

Calvert had an enterprising spirit and a creative mind — he started many ventures and taught himself many skills during his life. As a young man, he learned how to make novelty toys; such as, juggling sticks and would perform ad hoc shows along the boardwalk while selling his creations. Never one to sit still, he was always trying something new. Among them: he played competitive 8 Ball, learned how to build antique woodworking tools, created fine wood crafts, remodeled homes, grew herbs and built and refurbished all manner of furniture and equipment.

He fell in love with cooking at an early age and worked in many of Tidewater’s best restaurants through the years. He was a pâtissier and had a small business creating and selling exquisite contemporary deserts to several Norfolk restaurants. He worked his way up through many kitchen positions to an executive chef position and opened his own restaurant, Blues Alley, in the early 2000s.

Blues Alley allowed Calvert to truly express his competence as a chef as well as his many other talents — he custom-built the bar and many of the restaurant’s finer features. Naming the restaurant after his great-uncle’s partnership with Tommy Gwaltney, the legendary Blues Alley of Washington, D.C., Calvert also created a venue for many gifted jazz and blues artists. The fine foods that he designed and prepared were hailed for their innovative approach, stylish designs and amazing flavor combinations. In all, Blues Alley expressed much of what Calvert gave over to the world, including his welcoming nature, his desire to bring joy to those around him and his love of simple elegance.

Calvert was an incredibly kind man. He was a caretaker and refurbisher of cast-off things. He cared for abandoned animals and welcomed people from every position and condition into his life without pretension or judgment.

He had a wonderful sense of humor and an animated character, often bringing laughter to tense situations and optimistically framing difficult events into comic relief. For many years, he made sure those around him had a place to go during holidays and could enjoy a truly fine meal. He loved to pass on knowledge and learn from others through conversation. All who knew him were touched by his gentle spirit and caring nature.

He is survived by many who loved him, Larry and Mary Page Cannon Voss, Theresa Leland along with Ashley, Kayleigh and Daxton, Phillip, Lisa and Claire Johnston, Bob and Elizabeth Eastman, Amber and Gresham Champion, and many, many other family members and friends who will miss him dearly.

Services will be held at 1 p.m., Friday, Aug. 16, at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts. A reception will follow services next door at Eastern Shore Chapel Episcopal Church.

Share online condolences with the family at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts.

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