One of Charlottesville’s great chefs is moving on. Jose De Brito, chef of The Alley Light, has left the restaurant that he helped to win unprecedented acclaim in Charlottesville, including a James Beard semi-finalist nod for Best New Restaurant in the country and rave reviews from The Washington Post and The Washingtonian. In February, De Brito himself became a James Beard semi-finalist for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic.
Beyond his extraordinary talent, though, De Brito is known best for his passion. “Above everything, Jose is a man with a dedication that surpasses what most people’s dedication ever achieves,” says The Alley Light’s founder, Will Richey. “He is dedicated to a cuisine which he executes with precision, reverence and true concern both for the quality of the food and the enjoyment of the customer.” But, after two remarkable years, De Brito decided it was time to pursue other opportunities.
Taking the reins in The Alley Light’s kitchen is Sous Chef Robin McDaniel, a De Brito protegé who accomplished something few other chefs have: impress De Brito. A former server at Fleurie, where De Brito once worked, McDaniel joined De Brito in The Alley Light kitchen after showing an interest in cooking. She was a natural, who De Brito has called a “sponge” for her ability to soak up knowledge.
Earlier this year, McDaniel and her husband Chris Dunbar, who manages the The Alley Light, became part owners of the restaurant, and together they will lead its next chapter, freeing Richey, who remains a co-owner, to focus on his many other ventures. In the kitchen, McDaniel plans to adhere to “the core principles of Jose’s cooking,” said Dunbar. And, “the specials will continue to be ever-changing with an emphasis on the classic French cuisine she has learned.”
What’s next for De Brito, after helping to create such an outstanding restaurant? While he has not finalized his plans yet, some exciting opportunities lie ahead. Stay tuned.