A new restaurant will soon open in the former location of Cobb’s Pizza, with an unusual name: Nude Fude. “No there’s no special party in the back!” said Ken Notari, who owns the restaurant with his wife Dani. Rather, the name is meant to reflect “an unadulterated approach to food,” he said. “Take the best of what’s available locally and provide it with minimal processing – nothing hidden.”
Yeah-yeah, another “local” restaurant, you say? What may make Nude Fude different is its aim to bring local food to the masses. As much as the local food movement has exploded in recent years, a common critique remains that eating local can come at a premium. Nude Fude plans to offer local food at an affordable price-point in a fast-casual setting.
If any of this strikes you as unserious, consider that Nude Fude has not one, but two, graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. Ken himself is one. The other is chef Jarrod Brown, who Ken met while at culinary school, and who has cooked at Lemaire and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
From a look at the tentative opening menu, Brown’s creations look promising, like Pork Pastrami (pork shoulder brined, smoked & steamed, rye points, roasted radishes, tarragon peas & bacon) and Johnny Cakes with grilled stone fruit and honey dip.
Nude Fude will open in mid-to-late May at 2800 Hydraulic Road. While you wait, here’s some background on chef Jarrod Brown and owners Ken and Dani Notari.
Chef Jarrod Brown
How did you get into cooking?
I needed a job. It really was that simple. I wish I had a romantic story of growing up at my grandmother’s elbow and helping stir the grits, but in reality I grew up on stovetop and kimchi. I was an army brat and had traveled the world, and surprisingly it really just came naturally once I did start cooking. I got really into the process of it, the organization and attention to detail. It just really spoke to me on all levels.
Do you have a philosophy for your approach to cooking?
It all comes down to respecting the ingredient. The chicken I’m roasting is important not just because it’s a beautiful chicken, but somebody raised that chicken. Not only did this chicken die for my dinner, but somebody had to kill it. Somebody had to pluck, gut, and clean it. Someone packed it up. Someone shipped it. Someone fabricated it. There is a long chain behind everything that I use to perform my craft and make my living and I try to honor that. To that end we try incredibly hard to utilize everything we can.
What brought you to Charlottesville?
I wanted to get to the point where I knew the names of the people doing everything I listed above. I love Virginia. Of everywhere I’ve been and lived I truly believe it is the best place to be a chef. When Ken reached out to me with his concept I was intrigued but hesitant. It’s a big undertaking opening a restaurant and I wasn’t sure. But when I came out to visit and saw the community here I was excited. The more I looked into this region the more I realized it had everything I was looking for to really explore my craft. I’m really excited to call Charlottesville home now.
What type of food do you plan for the restaurant?
We are cooking local, seasonal foods in a fast casual setting. We plan to be incredibly flexible with the local farmers and design our menu around the ingredients they are really excited about at the time. Because this is Virginia, and more importantly because it is delicious, there will always be a strong southern accent to the menu. I like to branch out and touch on my past and present sometimes, so there are brushes of Eastern Europe, Central American, Middle-Eastern, and Mediterranean techniques here and there.
I’ve worked in the farm-to-table side of the industry for most of my career, and the lion’s share of them were incredibly expensive to eat at. That always felt wrong to me, so this concept is around trying to bring the same quality ingredients you would get in high-end restaurants at a much more reasonable price. Fast. Everybody works now, it’s hard out there, so we want to offer people the option of feeding their families or themselves without having to make an entire evening of it.
What are your personal favorite items on the opening menu?
Right now I’m really excited about our Chicken Kabob main. It’s marinated in Kefir and honey and recommended to be accompanied by boiled peanuts, smoked potatoes, and grilled romaine. I say recommended because if you prefer the black eye peas or cornbread on another dish, then you are welcome to choose that instead. As a chef I’ve designed these dishes based off what I think works best together, but if you just really hate boiled peanuts then by all means try something else.
I think our Smoked Turkey sandwich is great. We layer the smoked turkey with onion jam, roasted cashews, crumbled goat cheese, and parsley on toasted bread. This is the sort of sandwich line cooks make for themselves at the end of a busy night with whatever’s left of the mise en place, and I think it tastes even better with an ice-cold beer.
Why did you decide to open a restaurant in Charlottesville?
While living in Arlington we started to put together a game plan for life after NOVA – Dani was a conservation biologist at The Nature Conservancy’s world headquarters and I was an Air Force pilot incarcerated at the Pentagon and we decided Cville would be a great place to raise our 3 young children. We loved the very strong interest in sustainable and wholesome food as we are deeply interested in the slow food movement and in improving the connection between what we eat, our bodies, our environment, and our community. We were as immediately attracted to the strong sense of community in town as we were equally enthusiastic about the areas celebration of its ample bounty.
What is your background in the restaurant industry?
In order to prepare for a second career in the restaurant business we spent 2 years in Upstate New York while I attended the Culinary Institute of America. The CIA allowed me to immerse myself in the industry before executing Phase II, moving back to VA to open a restaurant. But even prior to retiring from service, I gained valuable experience moonlighting at a Kempinski Hotel while deployed to Bahrain for 6 months and again at 1789 Restaurant in Georgetown once back at the Pentagon. I benefited tremendously from a 5-month externship to an outstanding farm-to-table establishment in the Hudson Valley. Finally, I was able to forge strong relationships with several local purveyors while helping the Strumingers re-open the Batesville Market last fall. Dani has gained valuable leadership experience in the public, private and consulting worlds and her steady guidance proves people always desire a purpose, clear guidance, and sincere recognition of their effort.
What is your concept for the restaurant?
Our intent is to make great local, sustainable food accessible to a broader audience by providing it on a quick-service timeline and price-point; and, if people don’t have a few minutes to wait, we’ll also have a grab-n-go market to take food back to the office or home to their families. Part of the purpose for going to the CIA was to seek other like-minded culinarians and I was fortunate enough to study with a grad-assistant who shared our vision. Jarrod Brown’s broad culinary perspective and home-grown understanding of local ingredients will excite both traditionalists and the adventurous.