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Jeremy Fox & crew leave Ubuntu!

hhc Feb 16, 2010 01:11 PM

wow! I wonder what happened? From Inside Scoop Chronicle:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

  1. m
    mahjede Apr 1, 2010 03:14 PM

    for what it's worth i had dinner at ubuntu this past saturday and it was still fantastic. the new chef is clearly seizing his newfound opportunity. the fennel was the single best-cooked piece of any variety of vegetable i have ever had.

    it was the fifth or sixth time i've been able to dine at ubuntu and, while all of the others were with jeremy fox as head chef, i would consider this most recent adventure to be one of the best experiences i've had. four thumbs up to aaron london and his forthcoming success.

    and now it's back to brooklyn and hoping j fox follows.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mahjede
      maria lorraine Apr 1, 2010 10:42 PM

      Nice report. Thanks for the post and update of the current experience.

    2. Bookwormgal Mar 29, 2010 01:21 AM

      I think this is a good thing though. I always thought it was completely nuts that a restaurant with a name out of South African philosophy was mostly vegetarian? I mean have they been to SA? It's like meat meat some veggies more veggies and then more meat followed by a chicken and then some starch (usually potato or bread). If they are going to really be Ubuntu then they should at least make an effort to have some South African dishes, even if it's only the vegetarian/starchy side dishes like Pap and Sous or Toasties bread or koeksisters (since this place is supposedly good with desserts).

      You borrow a piece of culture so important from a culture as the concept of 'ubuntu' then you should respect it enough to represent!

      1. a
        Armoise Mar 23, 2010 10:15 PM

        Maybe Jeremy just wants to cook with meat again....

        10 Replies
        1. re: Armoise
          maria lorraine Mar 23, 2010 10:50 PM

          This idea may have merit. To cook with meat, or merely to cook something different. The Ubuntu menu, though interesting, could be considered limiting for those who must create within its confines.

          1. re: maria lorraine
            bbulkow Mar 24, 2010 04:18 AM

            Which is why I enjoyed his chef's tasting menu when he was at Ubuntu - no limits. I look forward to his next venture.

            1. re: maria lorraine
              Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2010 09:01 AM

              Before Fox left Ubuntu, they had announced a special Tuesday night (usually closed) dinner in which he would cook whatever he felt like, including meat:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/667950

              That upset a lot of customers, and the meal was eventually vegetarian:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/674812

            2. re: Armoise
              CarrieWas218 Mar 23, 2010 11:13 PM

              Jeremy had not entirely given up cooking with meat; his Tuesday Chef Table dinners were not exclusively vegetarian.

              1. re: CarrieWas218
                maria lorraine Mar 23, 2010 11:32 PM

                Did those ever really get going? Somehow I recall hearing the idea fizzled after one Tuesday or so...

                1. re: maria lorraine
                  CarrieWas218 Mar 24, 2010 08:42 AM

                  They went every Tuesday up until the point where Jeremy left.

                  I am disappointed in that my birthday falls on a Tuesday this year (in June) and I was in the process of pre-booking that night for my friends.

                  1. re: CarrieWas218
                    rworange Mar 24, 2010 09:10 AM

                    My understanding was those Tuesday dinners were just for the winter season. So by June, they probably would not be held whether or not Fox stayed.

                    I'm surprised the story behind his leaving has actually been kept under wraps.

                    1. re: rworange
                      Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2010 09:30 AM

                      I think it's a case of those who know won't say and those who say don't know. There's no shortage of loose talk.

                      1. re: rworange
                        CarrieWas218 Mar 24, 2010 09:48 AM

                        Before the staff departure, I pretty much had my BDay dinner set, so I disagree.

                  2. re: CarrieWas218
                    Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2010 09:02 AM

                    Did he actually serve any meat? The original announcement said they would, but the first one didn't have any.

                2. BernalKC Mar 23, 2010 05:58 PM

                  This tweet is a big deal, if true. From KQED's BayareaBites: https://twitter.com/bayareabites/status/10951692913

                  Jason Fox & Anthony Myint (MissionStreetFood) opening COMMONWEALTH early summer. benevolent dining model @commonwealth_sf http://ow.ly/1q5jM

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: BernalKC
                    CarrieWas218 Mar 23, 2010 06:56 PM

                    That is JASON Fox. Not Jeremy Fox. Different chefs....

                    1. re: BernalKC
                      wolfe Mar 23, 2010 07:40 PM

                      And the place is Commis not Commonwealth.
                      Maurice Chevalier, "Ah yes I remember it well."

                      -----
                      Commis
                      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                      1. re: wolfe
                        CarrieWas218 Mar 23, 2010 07:42 PM

                        Two different Foxes. JASON Fox is starting at Commonwealth while JEREMY is cooking one night at Commis.

                        -----
                        Commis
                        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                        1. re: CarrieWas218
                          wolfe Mar 23, 2010 08:46 PM

                          I got it. Just teasing BKC.

                          1. re: wolfe
                            BernalKC Mar 23, 2010 09:05 PM

                            who is most abashed at the moment. this wolf has been out foxed.

                            (but the MSF/Commonwealth/other Fox news is pretty cool too.)

                    2. JasmineG Mar 23, 2010 05:16 PM

                      According to Jeremy Fox's twitter feed, he'll be cooking at Commis next Tuesday for a tasting meal at the chef's counter:

                      …6 seats@5:30...6 seats@8:30~ $125/per~wine pairing $69/per no restrictions please~call 510-653-3902 after 2pm~ask for Sarah ~THANK YOU

                      -----
                      Commis
                      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JasmineG
                        Melanie Wong Mar 31, 2010 08:13 PM

                        Hope we'll see some reports from those who attended last night.

                      2. maria lorraine Mar 10, 2010 06:36 PM

                        Any updates?

                        What made Jeremy leave, and Denise before him?

                        What about the crew wanting to leave as well?

                        What are the problems? Salary? Treatment?
                        What's the story behind this?

                        Any 411, insider news, street reports, anything?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: maria lorraine
                          bbulkow Mar 10, 2010 08:57 PM

                          I had one friend go recently and tweeted it was "best meal ever!!!" but they had never been before. I offer this tidbit with a large grain of salt.

                        2. Glencora Feb 25, 2010 06:48 AM

                          Oops, there's a story about Jeremy Fox and Ubuntu in the March Sunset magazine, with a picture of the garden.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Glencora
                            Ruth Lafler Feb 25, 2010 10:11 AM

                            Those darned publishing schedules!

                            1. re: Glencora
                              r
                              Reignking Feb 26, 2010 12:26 PM

                              Well, "Sunset" is appropriate.

                            2. JasmineG Feb 22, 2010 12:52 PM

                              Ubuntu issues a press release about it: http://sf.eater.com/archives/2010/02/...

                              Has anyone been to the restaurant since the chef turnover?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: JasmineG
                                bbulkow Feb 24, 2010 12:31 AM

                                So if his wife's at Manresa, even as pastry, would a Chez TJ rumor be out of place?

                                1. re: bbulkow
                                  m
                                  mdg Feb 24, 2010 08:05 AM

                                  Yes, for two reasons:

                                  1) Chez TJ already has a great new chef in Scott Nishiyama, and

                                  2) Chez TJ doesn't generally hire chefs who have already had their own high-profile restaurant in the Bay Area. They hire people who have worked at high-profile places, like Nishiyama has done at French Laundry, but not folks with Fox's resume.

                                  Michael

                              2. BernalKC Feb 18, 2010 08:02 AM

                                So today's Inside Scoop dribbles out a few more details. Sounds like it came down to an 'us or him' proposition that ended with Fox leaving and the rest of the Ubuntu staff staying. Detinitely a lot more to this story than has been told so far.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: BernalKC
                                  susancinsf Feb 18, 2010 08:59 AM

                                  Are we reading the same Scoop or do you have some other source of information also?

                                  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                  It says some staffers have 'apparently' decided to stay, but the 'us or him' scenario with the 'rest of the staff staying' reads more into this particular report than I would....

                                  1. re: susancinsf
                                    BernalKC Feb 18, 2010 09:23 AM

                                    I am reading between the lines, I admit. But the news that "apparently some of the staffers who were planning to quit have now decided to stay" suggests a far different picture than the initial framing of the story. Combining this with the insinuation-laden post here that was quickly deleted suggest to me that there is more to this story than we know. Hopefully we never will know all. Better that everyone shut up, learn, mature, and grow -- and hopefully Fox gets another chance to flourish.

                                  2. re: BernalKC
                                    rworange Feb 18, 2010 09:01 AM

                                    If that is the case ... wrong decision.

                                    You can always get new staff. You can't get a chef that's going to get national acclaim and a Michelan star.

                                    1. re: rworange
                                      bbulkow Feb 18, 2010 01:17 PM

                                      We don't know the whole story.

                                      If I was going to *make up a story*, I'd say that the Ubuntu framework of large-menu and constant dishes is problematic for a chef like Fox, and he needed to do a prix fixe thing like all the other innovative restaurants. The fact that Ubuntu had a tasting menu and dropped it, and dabbled with the Tuesday Night Dinner series, hint at that kind of conflict.

                                      If Fox opens a Commis-like enterprise closer to the bay area, that would suit me.

                                      Carpe Diem!

                                  3. h
                                    happenstance Feb 16, 2010 07:39 PM

                                    I am so so very sad. I love this restaurant and his cuisine. And yes, I agree. Move to SF or Oakland and it will alway be full.

                                    18 Replies
                                    1. re: happenstance
                                      rworange Feb 16, 2010 08:39 PM

                                      "Sources tell The Inside Scoop that as of 3 a.m. chef Jeremy Fox and most of the staff came to the agonizing decision to leave Ubuntu"

                                      That's like Tiger leaving his house in the middle of the night. Something is wrong. Probably doesn't have anything to do with lack of customers. I'm sure The Scoop will be following up.

                                      1. re: rworange
                                        h
                                        happenstance Feb 17, 2010 12:50 AM

                                        Exactly...sounds like something went horribly awry.

                                        1. re: happenstance
                                          r
                                          Ridge Feb 17, 2010 10:55 AM

                                          I didn't see this post and posted a seperate message. Here is my post:

                                          This is truly sad. I had been meaning to go back to Ubuntu for a while but hadn’t made it yet this year. With this news the Bay Area loses it’s most innovated and vibrant upscale restaurant. In terms of upscale food, all we are left with is good but run-of-the-mill Alice Waters/Thomas Keller inspired places that rehash the same dishes (rare duck breast, butter saturated risotto, 3 scallops on a plate maincourses, etc.) Is it just me or is this getting boring? I will miss Ubuntu.

                                          1. re: Ridge
                                            Paul H Feb 17, 2010 09:27 PM

                                            You clearly haven't been to Coi, Manresa, Meadowood, or Commis lately. The loss of Ubuntu is significant but there is lots of excellent creative food left in the area.

                                            1. re: Paul H
                                              susancinsf Feb 18, 2010 06:35 AM

                                              Obviously, it is at least partly a matter of taste, but while I was dining at Commis I thought to myself that Ubuntu was much more interesting and that I'd rather be there. (and I'm definitely not a Coi fan, but part of that is the vibe and service. then again, the service was stellar the last time I was at Ubuntu.)

                                              I will conceed that the carrot dish I had at Commis (an appetizer, and my favorite dish of the meal) was similar in concept but better than the carrot dish I had the last time I dined at Ubuntu (which was the only dish of that meal that didn't wow.)

                                              That said, while there were perhaps small flashes of genius (not even sure I'd go that far but can't come up with a better word) in my dinner at Commis, as a whole it wasn't at all engaging and certainly not vibrant or exciting. My last meal at Ubuntu definitely was.

                                              Actually, I am not sure it makes sense to compare the restaurants, even based on personal taste. I guess my point is to agree with Ridge in that I found Ubuntu to be the most compelling (in the sense that I left thinking "ooh, I want to go back SOON") of all the higher end restaurants I've tried in the bay area.

                                              1. re: susancinsf
                                                Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2010 08:56 AM

                                                I found Ubuntu quite reminiscent of Manresa. It was a great and interesting meal, but I can handle that kind of meal maybe once every 3-6 months tops.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  susancinsf Feb 18, 2010 10:00 AM

                                                  I haven't been to Manresa...but your comment may have moved it further up the list for me.. :-)

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    CarrieWas218 Feb 18, 2010 05:36 PM

                                                    Fox was one of Kinch's early Sous Chefs -- it is not surprising that dining at Ubuntu reminded you of Manresa.

                                                    1. re: CarrieWas218
                                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2010 05:49 PM

                                                      Fox was the charcuterie guy at Manresa and later chef de cuisine.

                                                  2. re: susancinsf
                                                    CarrieWas218 Feb 18, 2010 05:34 PM

                                                    Actually it IS easy to compare the two restaurants: the chefs both cut their teeth together at Manresa, are very close friends, and one was even the other's Best Man. It is not surprising to see them sharing recipes and to find similarities at their respective restaurants.

                                                  3. re: Paul H
                                                    r
                                                    Ridge Feb 18, 2010 10:47 AM

                                                    I’ve been to Coi, Manresa and Commis. You can read my reviews (mostly good) in the following threads.

                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/495013
                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/633013
                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/491377

                                                    I don’t want to disparage any one restaurant, but the Bay Area fine dining scene has become boring for me (just my personal opinion). >95% percent of the time we go out these days we eat Asian/ethnic food. Alice Walters was a true food pioneer and changed the way we eat and thought about food. Her influence was/is monumental and profoundly good. Thomas Keller also was a great influence. But to me, the fine dining restaurants in the Bay Area these days stick too close to the same old Walters/Keller influenced cuisine with the exception of a place like Manresa which has the El Bulli influence thrown in. This staidness was now where more apparent to me that at a recent visit to newly opened Frances restaurant. The food was good to great but kind of the same old rehashed shtick. Ubuntu was refreshing because the food was different. We need more restaurants where the chefs are willing to take risks and not serve the same old, same old. Maybe I'm misguided but that's my $.02.

                                                    1. re: Ridge
                                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2010 01:12 PM

                                                      Alice Waters was a pioneer only in bringing traditional food that was ubiquitous in France and Italy to the US. That was a huge accomplishment but not one that can be repeated, except for other cuisines.

                                                      Generally, I prefer one of the classic dishes that have been polished by generations of Italian and French grandmothers to a new dish some creative chef came up with last week that will be forgotten next year. Ubuntu's sunflower seed "risotto" was amazing but not something I need to eat twice.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        j
                                                        j.jessica.lee Feb 22, 2010 02:28 PM

                                                        Robert, do you also feel the same way about the cuisine at Manresa? Or Commis? And of the places that do these classic dishes really well, are there any standouts?

                                                        1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                          wolfe Feb 22, 2010 03:44 PM

                                                          This will have to hold you until Robert is free to answer.
                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6734...

                                                          1. re: j.jessica.lee
                                                            Robert Lauriston Feb 23, 2010 08:49 AM

                                                            I like to eat that kind of Frenchy, chef-driven food maybe 2-4 times a year, and I may never order a tasting menu again.

                                                            I'm eager to try Commis, but after eating at Ubuntu last month it'll probably be a while.

                                                            Except for Lers Ros and Ohgane, the restaurants on my favorites list are all more classic than innovative.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              Ruth Lafler Feb 23, 2010 09:28 AM

                                                              Are Lers Ros and Ohgane really "innovative" -- or are they just less familiar cuisines?

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                t
                                                                Thomas Nash Feb 23, 2010 02:54 PM

                                                                I agree... Lers Ros is classic, classic regional Thai (and authentic, e.g. like Bangkok or Chiang Mai or...). I think by "innovative" Robert meant that for a Thai restaurant it is innovative to do real Thai as opposed to US shopping mall Thai.

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 23, 2010 03:58 PM

                                                                  Lers Ros and Ohgane don't make either innovative, chef-driven Frenchy food or classic Italian / Cal-Italian / Cal cuisine.

                                              2. susancinsf Feb 16, 2010 01:52 PM

                                                dining room was never empty when I was there...

                                                Ubuntu was getting better each time I ate there, and I think Fox is very talented.

                                                anyway, sad news, hubby was just telling a friend and sister Chowhound last night how much he loved the place and how much he was looking forward to taking me back there for my birthday...and since hubby tends to dislike most mid to high end restaurants, this was high praise indeed. Guess I have to re-think the birthday plans :-(

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: susancinsf
                                                  Melanie Wong Feb 17, 2010 12:43 PM

                                                  Trimming back the hours of server would tend to say otherwise . . .

                                                  Nothing yet from Chef Fox directly, his last message was about displaced Mugaritz staffer.
                                                  http://twitter.com/jfoxubuntu

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                    susancinsf Feb 17, 2010 07:43 PM

                                                    It's true; my experience may have been contrary to the norm. I did notice the last time I went to make reservations on Open Table that they were offering 1000 points at 5:30 and 6 p.m., which I remember struck me as odd given that I've always seen them full.

                                                    1. re: susancinsf
                                                      JasmineG Feb 17, 2010 08:48 PM

                                                      Yeah, that's a sign of a restaurant in trouble (when it's a relatively small restaurant) -- I knew that Aqua wasn't doing well when it had lots of 1000 point reservations on Open Table.

                                                      I hope that Fox resurfaces somewhere soon; I didn't love my meals at Ubuntu as much as a lot of people did, but I enjoyed them, and I'd love to try his cooking again.

                                                      1. re: JasmineG
                                                        r
                                                        Reignking Feb 18, 2010 05:40 AM

                                                        I'd be hesitant to jump to a conclusion based on that, considering the time of the year. It isn't tourist season, and when I think fresh, exciting vegetables, I gravitate towards the warmer months. Then again, that area may grow everything year-round anyway.

                                                  2. re: susancinsf
                                                    c
                                                    celeryroot Feb 17, 2010 03:01 PM

                                                    We were thereon a weeknite after New Years and it was only half filled. They are only open
                                                    5 nights a weeks,short hours, an weekend lunch. Not easy to make it on so few hours and not tourist season, no matter how good the food maybe. The clue was the specialized dinners for groups. I wish them all well but they are not the only ones hurting.

                                                    1. re: celeryroot
                                                      s
                                                      SteveG Feb 17, 2010 04:16 PM

                                                      I think they limit the tables on opentable, perhaps to the extent that it hurts their business. I went with a friend last Saturday and the only available table for 2 was at 6 PM, yet there was tons of space at the communal table that never filled up.

                                                      They should take a hard look at seating arrangements and the reservation system to maximize covers per night even if it means rejecting large groups.

                                                  3. s
                                                    SteveG Feb 16, 2010 01:46 PM

                                                    No idea what happened. The pastry chef apparently left a month ago, but when we coincidentally ate dinner there last Saturday the desserts were almost the best part. All in all, we had a great meal with no hints of any trouble. Too bad. I hope he moves to San Francisco - a restaurant like Ubuntu would be mobbed in SF.

                                                    1. o
                                                      oysterspearls Feb 16, 2010 01:39 PM

                                                      I am so kicking myself that I never made it to Ubuntu!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: oysterspearls
                                                        megek Feb 17, 2010 03:16 PM

                                                        This is so tragic! Looks like a press release is forth-coming: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                                        1. re: megek
                                                          j
                                                          Jeff Feb 18, 2010 10:18 AM

                                                          "Tragic"? Really? Disappointing, perhaps, but far from tragic.

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