Jose de Brito Returns to Charlottesville

Fleurie sauce

Photo by Tom McGovern

Though the origin of Charlottesville’s nickname “The Hook” is uncertain, one theory is that the city’s allure hooks roving residents to return. Not even world class chefs, it seems, can resist its charms.

Jose de Brito has returned to Charlottesville. Again.

De Brito first left Charlottesville in 2016, after helping The Alley Light earn a James Beard semifinalist nod for Best New Restaurant in the country. After a year in Washington, Virginia at The Inn at Little Washington, he returned to Charlottesville in 2017 to head the kitchen at Fleurie. In 2018, it was back to Washington for a stint at Foster Harris House. And now, he is home again, in Charlottesville.

What brought de Brito back this time? Brian Helleberg, owner of Fleurie and Petit Pois, who contacted de Brito about rejoining the team after pastry chef Serge Torres’ departure earlier this year.

Given de Brito’s great respect for Helleberg, he of course listened. “I have known Brian for 18 years,” said de Brito. “We share the same love of cooking, and he can get as excited as I can in front of a plate of food – a rare quality in my eye.” De Brito especially credits Helleberg for his commitment to buying from local farmers “quietly and extensively . . . long before it was marketable.”

Officially, de Brito will be Pastry Chef for Fleurie and Petit Pois, but his impact will extend further, as we will be charged with helping both restaurants excel and improve. “Just like the first time Chef José returned to us, he’ll be re-joining a better team, restaurants and infrastructure than when he left,” says Helleberg. “As we add him as pastry chef and a catalyst of our culinary ecosystem, I’m looking forward to seeing him and the businesses thrive.”

Perhaps most exciting for de Brito’s fans is that he will be responsible for a new series of Sunday dinners at Fleurie, each with a different theme. Details to come.

Welcome back, Jose.