Not every real estate development company has its own Director of Culinary Strategy. In fact, the developer behind The Shops at Stonefield – EDENS – claims to be one of the few in the country with a full-time chef in charge of food.
EDENS’ culinary director is not just any chef. With ties to Virginia, the local food movement, and nationally renowned chefs, Richie Brandenburg seems uniquely fit for the task of overseeing food at Stonefield. Raised in Virginia, Brandenburg entered the restaurant world the way so many chefs do: washing dishes. Before long, though, he found himself in much snazzier gigs, working with some of the nation’s biggest culinary names: Dickie Brennan at New Orleans’ Palace Cafe; Michael Mina in San Francisco; Jose Andres in Washington, D.C.; and Eric Ripert, as sous chef of Le Bernardin, which some have called the best restaurant in the country. Other stops include San Francisco’s Fifth Floor and One Market, as well as D.C.’s Restaurant Nora and Urbana.
Last year, though, Brandenburg’s career took an unexpected turn, when EDENS lured him from the kitchen to oversee culinary strategies for their development projects, starting with the much-heralded Union Market. Brandenburg wasn’t looking to leave the kitchen for the corporate world, but he was so impressed by EDENS that he could not resist. He was particularly struck by EDENS’ management’s “view of doing things the right way.” It reminded Brandenburg of the approach of his former boss Jose Andres, who is “phenomenally passionate” about perfecting his product: food. EDENS brings a similar determination to getting their own products right, says Brandenburg. “Food is the new anchor,” Brandenburg says of the ability of food to attract customers.
So, what “anchors” does Brandenburg have in store for Charlottesville? His aim is to feature the “best in class” in a diverse selection of cuisines. For example, for Stonefield’s burger place, what immediately came to mind was Reynold Mendizabal’s D.C. burger mecca, Black & Orange, where Brandenburg is a regular customer. Last year, City Paper readers named it the best burger in D.C..
Likewise, Stonefield’s wine bar and restaurant will be run by one of the best beverage directors Brandenburg has ever worked with. At the helm of Parallel 38 is Justin Ross, who comes to Charlottesville after several years overseeing beverages at one of D.C.’s best places to eat and drink: Zaytinya. (Check back soon for more on Parallel 38.)
With Black & Orange and Parallel 38 both slated to open next year, just two restaurants have opened thus far at Stonefield: Noodles & Company and Benton’s Grill. While both are corporately owned, Brandenburg has no intention of abandoning his life-long focus on sourcing locally. “As a chef, I’ve always liked to go out to meet the farmers and see the guys making my food,” says Brandenburg. In the D.C. area, Brandenburg is known for his connections to local purveyors. In Charlottesville, Brandenburg sees an even greater opportunity for local produce than in D.C., where sourcing locally can be difficult.
No Stonefield restaurant is more emblematic of this local focus than Pasture, the Richmond spin-off we profiled last week. Owner Jason Alley champions local food at his two Richmond restaurants, Comfort and Pasture, and will bring the same approach to the Pasture at Stonefield. “I love Comfort and the stuff Jason Alley is doing at Pasture,” says Brandenburg.
We look forward to more news about Brandenburg’s plans for Stonefield.