The Dish

Chef Joy Crump of Fredericksburg’s FOODE fills us in on her latest move.

Joy Crump is the chef and owner of FOODE restaurant in Fredericksburg. Crump appeared on Season 12 of Top Chef, and has cooked in Los Angeles and Atlanta. She will be cooking for the Edna Lewis 100th birthday celebration at Richmond’s Fire, Flour and Fork Sunday, Nov. 19.

You recently changed locations for FOODE. How did the move go?

It was quite the undertaking! We thought we had so much of it figured out but it was such a dramatic change in size and scope, from 30 to 90 seats. It’s like opening a new restaurant. For example, at the original location we were fast casual and guests ordered at the counter. But the new location is full service, with a full bar.

We are in a historic bank that’s over 200 years old. It’s on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s a destination and people come just to see what we did with the renovation. Which is cool, because as the Top Chef thing fades, we now have something else just as important and significant to get people to come in.

The biggest thing was understanding how to change that setup and still keep the same casual hospitality tone we had worked so hard to set for our first five years. We wanted to maintain that approachable and casual feel in a setting that’s more refined. It doesn’t matter if someone drops a fork, or if your kid makes some noise. 

What originally pulled you to Virginia?

I was born in Pennsylvania, and my parents divorced when I was very young. I went back and forth to spend stretches of time with my mother and stretches of time with dad. My dad worked for IBM and traveled, so I was in Chicago for several years, then Los Angeles, then Atlanta.

After I graduated from Penn State [with a degree in creative writing], I moved back to LA and spent 12 years there, just being insane and having a great time. When I was finished doing that, the bulk of my family had moved to Atlanta. So I moved there, and that’s where I met Beth Black, my business partner. She was raised in Manassas and visited Fredericksburg frequently while growing up. So when we partnered up to open the restaurant she recommended Fredericksburg.

Why did you choose Fredericksburg, which isn’t a big presence on the culinary radar?

No, not at all! It was late 2010, at the height of the recession, and my family was so nervous that I was opening a restaurant at such a time. Fredericksburg was great for several reasons. It’s right off Interstate 95, nestled between Richmond and D.C., which are two very viable scenes. There are a lot of government employees. There is a university, a hospital, and a lot of military, so in a way it was almost protected by the recession. People maintained their jobs and disposable income.

Economically we felt like there was a little cushion around Fredericksburg we wanted to take advantage of. D.C. was way too competitive and the real estate was incredibly expensive. We were first-timers, we needed a place where we could fail and not go out of business.

Fredericksburg is very community-minded, they support local businesses like I’ve never seen before. They wrap you up in their arms, they come when it’s snowing and raining. We were able to get our sea legs in a way we wouldn’t have in other communities.

So, are you a Southerner?

I love the southern band of the U.S., not just the Southeast. I love southern California, all the freshness and seasonality of it. I love Tex Mex, the Americanized version of Mexican food. I love southern Italy and Spain and Greece. I always gravitate to the southern part of most areas.

As a cook, I got into the American South at a time when southern cuisine redefined itself. Southern chefs were starting to figure out their voices. It used to be that when you thought of Southern food, you thought of barbecue, fried chicken, mac and cheese. I entered the industry 10 or so years ago and that was beginning to change. Notable chefs were making it more seasonal and fresher, with homegrown ingredients. Southern food is steeped in tradition and also evolving at the same time. That’s really what gets me.

Your Fire, Flour and Fork event will celebrate famed chef Edna Lewis. What about her food inspires you?

Edna Lewis is the South’s Julia Child. She literally and figuratively wrote the bible for Southern cuisine. I found out who she was through Scott Peacock, one of her greatest apprentices. He touched everything she touched, and brought that to Atlanta at Watershed, where he was the executive chef for years. I knocked on his door one day and said I would work for him for free, just to learn, and he called me for a couple of events. For me, that was the next best thing to working with Edna Lewis. He was so committed to the authenticity of her food, but also managed to have his own voice. He made such a huge impression on me.  

Everything we do at FOODE, we try and strike two chords: it should say “this is wonderfully familiar” and bring back a memory, with an approachability and familiarity that makes you feel comfortable; and at the same time it should be done so that you are pleasantly surprised in a way you didn’t expect. So that’s how we’ll tackle it. I’ll look at his work and her work, and then what can I do to make people shut their eyes and just say something like, “Mmmm, this is so good, I remember my mom used to make it but I’ve never had it like this! Is that fresh sage?” The old and new at the same time. 

Look for more Q&As with Fire, Flour & Fork chefs coming soon, including Tom Power, chef and owner of Fat Canary in Williamsburg. Click here to see our discussion with Michael Bryant, chef at Cliff’s Edge in Los Angeles.

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