When Ubuntu opened in 2007, there was great fanfare across the land. Jeremy Fox was the undisputed king of vegetables, and the restaurant topped pretty much every Best Of list. Critics (literally?) crapped their pants over its amazingness ― they couldn't believe vegetarian food could taste this good. Well, more likely, they just hadn't eaten in a vegetarian restaurant until one opened that was shmancy enough to catch their eye, but that's another story.
Fox reigned supreme at Ubuntu until 2009. He left to take time off, before going to work for Tyler Florence and starting work on a book. His position was soon filled by Aaron London, a chef who ― with the exception of a brief hiatus working front-of-house at Bottega in Yountville ― has been with Ubuntu since the beginning.
London has worked in nearly every role in the Ubuntu kitchen (he joined as sous chef just weeks after the restaurant opened). London brought a new philosophy and passion to the 4-year-old restaurant in the post-Fox era, and his food is ridiculous. As in ridiculously delicious. It's so good that although the wine list is exceptional, you don't need alcohol to forget you're eating in a restaurant that's also a yoga studio. Normally we need to be one gin and tonic away from hospitalization for that to happen.
London's hard work ― he puts in over 100 hours a week! That's more hours than we're awake per week! ― was recognized with a nomination for a James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award. All that and he's barely 27. As someone who is jealous of her 5-year-old niece for not knowing what a shitfest life can be, we could really see hating this guy if he weren't so damn likable.
London's rule at Ubuntu has meant jettisoning the bulky-yet-popular strawberry pizzas and chickpea fries and introducing weirdly named experimental dishes that often focus on a whole fruit and/or vegetable. After working at fine-dining establishments around the world, London says the one thing he's most bummed about is the amount of food that's tossed out in our nation's fanciest kitchens. [When asked if our favorite dish-gone-by, the chickpea fries, would make a comeback, London says, “My God, I never want to see those things again!” He wants to focus on less bulky foods, and on more actual vegetables, “plus they're a signature dish of the previous chef.” That's fair, but we have to give it up to Oprah for having the recipe. Ugh, where would be all be without Oprah? Probably still rubbing two sticks together.]