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Soaking in Celebrity

Caterer Todd Schneider, whose career change from business to event planning took off six years ago, wants to raise Richmond's profile (and his own) among food celebrities in the culinary capitals.

With inaugural plated dinners for 5,000 (Kaine), fundraising dinners for hundreds (Bush, Cheney) and corporate events and high-profile weddings (Siegel) under his belt, the operator of Great Seasons Fine Catering and Event Planning in Midlothian says he's poised to open a second outlet in Chicago.

Why there? Because Oprah's chef, Art Smith, has pulled Schneider in to help produce his own big events. Last month, Schneider worked alongside celebrity chefs Paula Deen, Rocco DiSpirito and others for Smith's Common Threads culinary training program fundraiser.

"I want to be nationally known," Schneider says of the food fast lane. "And I want to bring all those people here, to put Richmond on the food map."

New to 'Burbia

In Midlothian, the old China Jade restaurant in the Shoppes at Bellgrade is out. Zen Asian Bistro is in, with a cozy, modern look to complement a Chinese menu that's familiar but updated with Thai, teriyaki and salmon dishes, among other specialties.

Owner Zane Chen, formerly of P.F. Chang's and New York restaurants, has just opened the business in a neighborhood where non-chain dining manages to hold forth: Bottega Bistro, The Fondue Fanatic and River City Diner all have local roots. Zen Asian Bistro serves lunch and dinner daily. 379-7295.

Variation on Brunch

If Sunday brunch seems too impersonal at your usual watering hole, The Grace Manor Inn offers something a little more homelike -- assuming your home is a sprawling Victorian mansion that looks like an iced wedding cake inside and has gardens and porches for post-brunch lounging outside.

Innkeepers Dawn and Albert Schick are teaming with Julia Battaglini of River City Cellars to offer a champagne brunch Sunday, April 20, 1-3 p.m. They'll serve three kinds of bubbly with crepes, hearty salads and sweets. $40 is all-inclusive; seating is limited to 50 guests. 1853 W. Grace St. 353-4334.

Changing Tastes

Thai Mama: The Stratford Hills restaurant has closed; a sign on the door says it's temporary.

India Garden & Grill: The Midlothian Turnpike restaurant has closed; it's expected to reopen in the West End later this year.

Escabar: Closed. We'll have details next week on its new menu and identity as The Grove.

O'Toole's: Expansion into the florist shop next door and onto the patio is in progress. A nonsmoking policy has been good for business.

River City Cellars: Expanding into the former Urban Artifacts space in Carytown; its new wine bar should be open by fall. 2931 W. Cary St. 355-1375.

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