José de Brito Returns to Fleurie

by Charlottesville29

Photo by Tom McGovern

Lovers of José de Brito’s food (and there are many) may have been sad to learn in May that he had left Cafe Frank, the restaurant he co-founded in 2021 and helped earn Best New Restaurant. But, they may now be thrilled to know where the itinerant James Beard semifinalist has landed. José de Brito has returned to Fleurie.

For decades, De Brito has been one of Charlottesville’s most revered chefs — one peer calls him “the most talented chef in Virginia.” Part of the reason is passion. De Brito has been known to spend weeks preparing a single sauce for a single dish. Another is respect for the ingredients he uses, particularly the ones that died to become food. That respect drives De Brito to turn his ingredients into the most delicious things he possibly can –  a drive never more apparent than in the 2018 Dish of the Year he made when last at Fleurie: Autumn Olive Farms’ Heritage Pork, Prepared Nose to Tail.

De Brito left Fleurie shortly thereafter, but now he is back, and the restaurant’s new Chef de Cuisine is picking up right where he left off. For more than twenty years, Brian Helleberg’s stubborn ode to fine dining has been Charlottesville’s standard-bearer for French cuisine. Like many Charlottesville diners, Helleberg is thrilled to have De Brito back in his kitchen. Helleberg:

For the sake of our guests at Fleurie and the milestones that they celebrate with us, my goal for the past 22 years is that Fleurie continues getting better. José’s return is invigorating because his culinary knowledge and skill bring us the opportunity to do so. He is a friend, so I enjoy working with him, but moreover it is exciting to be around his encyclopedic knowledge of French cuisine and his drive to faithfully execute it.

Of course I love his cooking, but even more I love that José embraces that there are no easy days, no shortcuts. And while there are times that the work feels like a backyard brawl, tasting progress and seeing improvement reminds me of how incredibly lucky I am to have such a rewarding job.

Photo by Tom McGovern.