Annotated Dish

Jeremy Fox Cooks His First Non-Vegetarian Meal in Three Years

Chef James Shyabout (right) gave up his kitchen at Oakland's Commis and played sous to friend Jeremy Fox at a special dinner Tuesday night.
Chef James Shyabout (right) gave up his kitchen at Oakland’s Commis and played sous to friend Jeremy Fox at a special dinner Tuesday night. Photo: J. Barmann/Grub Street

Rock star chef Jeremy Fox emerged from a six-week hiatus to do a one-off guest stint this week at the chef’s counter at Commis in Oakland (announced via Twitter), marking the first non-vegetarian meal he’d cooked for a restaurant audience since before his Ubuntu days. The Beard Award nominee has been a free agent ever since walking away, Dave Chapelle-style, at the height of his game from the gig where he made his name back in mid-Feburary. The big question hanging out there in industry circles ever since is ‘Where will he head next?’ Chef Fox spoke to Grub Street about his upcoming plans, which include a cookbook, a few more guest shots in L.A. and New York, and maybe — just maybe — a new restaurant down the line.

What’s your connection to [Commis chef-owner] James Syhabout?
James is one of my best friends, and was the best man at my wedding. We’ve known each other since our Manresa days and have been close ever since. He was nice enough to let me test drive his kitchen for a night. I’m a little rusty. But hopefully it all turned out okay.

[Ed. Note: Fox did two seatings on Tuesday for a small group of diners. The nine-course menu featured three vegetarian courses, and fresh spring produce still played a starring role in the meat courses — one highlight was a dish of heirloom beets roasted in an Argentinian roscoldo style, using the embers from charred onions and root vegetables, served alongside braised pork trotters.]

What else do you have going on right now?
I’m really excited about some opportunities I’m getting to do some writing. Both a few articles, and I’ve got a cookbook deal in the works. The publisher is giving me free reign to create something really unconventional, both in the organization and the content. It should be really cool.

Any other guest cheffing plans?
Yeah, I’ll be doing a night or two at a place in New York while I’m in town for the Beards. They’re going to want to announce it themselves. In May, I’ll be doing a week, or five days, at Animal in L.A.

How did you become friends with the Animal guys [Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook]?
I went there about a year or so ago. I was in town for a charity event and I’d heard about Animal and really wanted to try it. I showed up late with a couple friends, and we weren’t even that hungry but every plate that came out got me hungrier and hungrier. And then somehow Vinny figured out I was from Ubuntu, and he came out and talked about how excited he was about Ubuntu. I thought it was really funny — you know, because here he is a chef at this all-meat restaurant. And I was just as excited about his food too. Now I go to Animal whenever I’m in L.A. They’re just really great guys.

Do you have any plans to be back working in a restaurant in the near future?
I’ve had a few offers from places in different parts of the world, but I’m in no rush to see any of those come to fruition just yet.

What would your ideal restaurant situation look like?
Fifty seats, right on the garden. And a kitchen without any kind of conventional cooking equipment. The opposite of molecular gastronomy — just some fire of various forms, rocks, wood, clay. Someplace where I could invent various contraptions to control the heat. Whatever I do, I don’t want it to be like anything else. Because otherwise it’s just no fun.

Earlier: Two Survive. Now, to Choose [Bruni/NYT]

Jeremy Fox Cooks His First Non-Vegetarian Meal in Three Years