We first met Chef Jason Fullilove at the much anticipated re-opening of the legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria in Downtown Los Angeles. As Executive Chef, he was given the monumental task of revamping the voluminous menu, and ultimately its clientele. Unfortunately, the throngs of die-hard fans of the past were not having it. They were content to graze on mess hall grub and shunned anything that was elevated from it. Nothing got these patrons more excited than the hashtag #thejellostays”. The jello stayed, but unsurprisingly, Fullilove did not.

Renowned as a Patina Group vet, the chef is now back with a highly personal concept that draws inspiration from his childhood and his time spent with his mother in Africa. Fullilove’s Barbara Jean, a restaurant pop-up, is a celebration of American Soul Food kicked up a notch. With its roots in American African cooking, there’s a particular focus on meats, offal, ancient grains, vegetables, and fermentation — all served up with a dash of elegance.

“Great attentive service but not overbearing,” he says. “A very knowledgeable service staff, combined with fresh and creative food that is artfully presented, well thought-out and tastes incredible—that’s what I strive for.” – Chef Jason Fullilove

On our recent visit, celebrity chef Mark Peel was in the kitchen as a special guest collaborating on Sunday brunch. Talk about a reversal of roles, Fullilove was once Chef De Cuisine for Peel at the late, great Campanile, co-owned by Peel’s former wife Nancy Silverton.

Having worked together for quite some time, Fullilove and Peel easily complemented each other’s style of cuisine and whipped up some magic for our table.

We started off with Peel’s Sour Cream Waffle topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, slivers of smoked trout, and a sprinkling of fresh chives. This was hands down, the best savory waffle that I have ever sunk my teeth into. It was so delicate that it was a wonder that it held up its shape. The tartness of the creme fraiche offsetting the smokiness of the trout was simply sublime. Leggo my waffle.

Next up was Fullilove’s BBQ Brisket Benedict, with wood-fired slabs of beef that were so tender that it melted in the mouth. Nestled cozily were Grenache wine poached eggs, crowned with a velvety stream of hollandaise sauce. And it wouldn’t be brunch if it wasn’t all served atop a toasted English Muffin. You will never get to order these beauties from a drive-thru window.

Coming round the bend was a bowl of Peel’s comforting Wheat Berry Risotto, studded with flax, pancetta, and shaved parmesan. It was at once creamy and chewy, light and hearty. Each spoonful was a delight to behold with the saltiness of the pancetta and nuttiness of the flax. Goldilocks would say that this sophisticated orchestration on a breakfast porridge is just right.

We finished up brunch on a high note with Fullilove’s Shrimp & Grits. The server recommended that we pay special attention to the shrimp head as it was packed with flavor. She knew what she was talking about, and much to my companion’s horror, I sucked on that thing until it was hollow. The battered shrimp nuggets, bursting with succulence, lounged on an island of fluffy stone-ground grits. They were surrounded by a mild garlic confit and juicy, olive oil poached tomatoes. All this goodness, floating on a sea of canonic fines herbes pistou of finely chopped parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil.

Photos From Past Barbara Jean Pop-Ups

Barbara Jean offers both a la carte options and full tasting menus priced at $30 for brunch. They will be popping up at the 7274 Melrose location tomorrow evening for dinner and one last time this Sunday, April 23, 2017. DJ Shai will be providing the sounds. Make sure to reserve your spot at Open Table or check back on Feastly for future pop-ups with the very talented Chef Jason Fullilove.

To help Barbara Jean continue to grow, a GoFundMe campaign has been started. Support small business and donate if you can.

Barbara Jean
7274 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Photos: Brian Feinzimer

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