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Richmond restaurant family who owned La Siesta featured on 'Legacy List with Matt Paxton' on PBS

Richmond restaurant family who owned La Siesta featured on 'Legacy List with Matt Paxton' on PBS

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“Legacy List,” with Richmond’s own Matt Paxton, is back for its second season on PBS.

“Legacy List” debuted last year on PBS with Paxton, who worked on the A&E show “Hoarders” for 10 years. The show is about creating a legacy list, that is, the four or five items you would take with you if your house were burning down.

This season features Michel and Lisa Zajur, former owners of the iconic Richmond restaurant La Siesta, on one episode as they prepare to downsize and declutter their Midlothian home.

The Zajurs owned La Siesta at 9900 Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield County for 35 years until it closed in 2009. The family has lived in their Midlothian home for almost as long. Now Michel is the president and CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber, but he couldn’t part with many of the nostalgic items from La Siesta that had been sitting in their garage and attic for years.

“We were feeling overwhelmed with life, and with the amount of stuff stored in our house from our families and the restaurant,” Lisa Zajur said.

They had also moved Lisa’s elderly parents into their home to care for them, along with all of their furniture and personal items. The Zajurs’ attic and garage were filled with stuff and they didn’t know if they needed to downsize or move or what to do.

“We decided to go on the show because we were feeling ‘stuck’ about what to do next, and we needed some help. We also knew that we had a story to tell, and felt that our story could help other people who may be feeling ‘stuck’ and overwhelmed like we were,” Lisa said.

For Paxton, who grew up in Bon Air, revisiting the Zajurs was a trip down memory lane. One of the items on their legacy list was finding the original recipe book for La Siesta, which contains the recipe for the restaurant’s famous white sauce.

“I used to go to La Siesta with my mom all the time and even had one of my first dates there, so it was awesome to meet the family and hear their stories and find old pieces of the restaurant,” Paxton said.

The second season of “Legacy List” started on Monday. It will feature eight families from up and down the East Coast.

“Highlights for me this season were finding a Picasso, a rare Samurai sword, some incredible jazz history, a dinosaur egg, a whaling harpoon and most importantly meeting the Zajur family,” Paxton said.

But filming during the coronavirus pandemic presented plenty of challenges.

“We film a show in homes of aging Americans, so we had to be safe. We had a strict protocol on social distancing and masks. Everyone was tested before and after filming,” Paxton said.

The Zajurs were filmed over the summer.

“Everyone wore a mask, except when we were on camera filming for the episode, and we sat 6 feet apart,” Lisa said. “Everything was wiped down continuously, too, during filming, and all the crew wore masks the entire time.”

Paxton said, “The hardest part was not being able to hug or give high fives. We would really get to know the family well, but we were wearing masks except when the cameras were rolling. When we wanted to celebrate, we just had to do an elbow bump instead of a hug or high five. I didn’t realize how much celebrating and positive encouragement we do in our job until we lost the ability to hug.”

But Paxton did get one unexpected surprise during filming with the Zajurs.

He had always loved the white sauce from La Siesta restaurant. After the recipe book was found, the Zajurs whipped up a fresh batch just for the show.

“The best moment of the season was getting to eat the famous La Siesta white sauce again. It took me back in time to high school and great moments with my mom. That’s what this show is about,” Paxton said.

ccurran@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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