Everyone's been pretty curious about the fate of Ubuntu, which made the odd move last fall of taking a five-month hiatus over the late fall and winter. Now comes word that chef Aaron London has decided to leave altogether, though on good terms with owner Sandy Lawrence, who still sounds intent on reopening in some shape or form though possibly without any of the former kitchen staff, most of whom have taken jobs in San Francisco or Oakland. London has recently been spotted behind the bar at Locanda, as the Scoop notes today, and Grub Street had also spotted him in the gym. Today we caught up with him about his plans, which include a solo project here in the city in the not too distant future.
The Beard-nominated London says he's incredibly grateful for his four years at Ubuntu, both under former chef Jeremy Fox and at the helm himself beginning in 2010. "I learned a lot of stuff, grew really well. And after four years and with this break, it seemed like the perfect time to move on without upsetting things too much there."
As for what he has planned here, he won't give the exact location but says he's getting close to a deal. "I've got my eyes set on a specific space," he says. "I don't want to jinx myself until it's a done deal. It's going to be a small space for sure, and it'll be really interestingly designed." As for whether he'll be continuing in an all-vegetable vein, as he has for the past four years, he says, "I'd rather not answer that right now. Put it this way, it's not a one-word answer. But it'll definitely be highly influenced by my time at Ubuntu, as well as all the other places I've worked." (Take a look at some of his Ubuntu work here and here.)
London seems to be adjusting well to city life, however. "I really like the style down here," he says, having lived in the North Bay for years. "And Locanda's a good place to work. Great food. I'm learning a lot there."
He also says that he just spoke with former boss Sandy Lawrence in the last few days who was slightly cagey about her plans for Ubuntu, but it sounds like she will reopen, as planned, this spring. Whether or not it will still be the same, or a similar concept restaurant is unclear. "We always talked about how we could tweak it, and how it might change," London says. "But all she said to me was 'It's going to be really interesting.'"
Aaron London leaves Ubuntu, with a San Francisco restaurant in his sights [Scoop]
Earlier: Ubuntu to Close November 21 for Winter Break, Become a Temporary Pop-Up Venue
An Illustrated Meal at Ubuntu, One Year Post-Fox