Feastly Success Stories is a new, ongoing series that chronicles and celebrates the vast accomplishments of Feastly chefs. From the passionate home cook to the Michelin-grade veteran, our chefs are continually pushing the bounds of traditional dining. We’re humbled and grateful to be part of their culinary journeys, and we can’t wait to see where their pop-ups take them.
For many chefs, opening a restaurant marks the apex of their careers. After years of paying dues in other people’s kitchens, a brick-and-mortar presents the chance to finally design a concept from the ground up. It’s a romantic notion, really. The artist gets to break free from others’ visions. It’s also unarguably risky. The current titans of food media continually report on the troubles of the food industry. Thrillist’s Kevin Alexander even went so far as to assert that America’s Golden Age of restaurants is on the precipice of destruction.
Episode I: Jason Fullilove, Barbara Jean LA
But the need for innovative, delicious food never dies, regardless of the difficulties of opening and sustaining a restaurant in the modern age. Enter chef Jason Fullilove, whose breadth of skills and experience has brought him to the aforementioned career apex. Fullilove’s many culinary credits include: chef de cuisine at the five-star Ritz-Carlton in the U.S. Virgin Islands; executive chef for Mark Peel at Campanile/Tar Pit; and executive chef at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as part of the Patina Group. After helping to open downtown LA’s Castaway and leading Burbank’s Castaway, Fullilove left the traditional kitchen in favor of his own project.
Before permanently procuring a space, Fullilove treated Feastly diners to his delicious takes on soul food through Barbara Jean, the pop-up bearing his mother’s name. As of a month ago, Barbara Jean has a new home in the former Mare space behind Melrose Umbrella Co. A celebration of global cuisines, the dishes echo parts of Fullilove’s childhood. He grew up primarily in Cleveland, but he spent two years in southern Africa while his mother set up relief organizations there. The menu includes items one might expect on an elevated soul food menu, like barbecue ribs, lobster mac n’ cheese, hush puppies, fried okra, and braised greens. It also presents some surprises, like deviled crab and barbecue pork agnollotti. Fullilove will change the menu based on seasonal availability and defines it as fine dining without the pretension (LAist).
The formal restaurant opening is July 19, but Fullilove is back at Feastly, hosting preview dinners for the next few weekends. Enjoy a restaurant sneak-peak highlighting Barbara Jean’s curry fried chicken with red chili aioli and housemade pickles. In September, Fullilove also plans to bring back Barbara Jean’s beloved boozy brunch, hosting guest chefs throughout this series.