The chef has landed: Elusive Chang nabs high-profile Charlottesville home
Brace yourself, foodies. Chinese chef Peter Chang is back”Š and he’s here to stay. According to a reliable source, the famously elusive Szechuan chef will be signing a lease this week for the former Asian Buffet space on U.S. 29 North and launching extensive renovations that could begin as early as next week. If all goes according to plan, the source says, the restaurant should open in December or January.
While Tim Rose, leader of the University of Virginia Foundation, which owns the 7,835 square-foot building, won’t confirm that the property has been leased to Chang, the source says Chang “really wants this space” and that they are “99.9 percent sure" it will happen.
And that's good news to a pair of Virginia Academy Award winners. More on them in a moment.
During the short time Chang cooked at Taste of China in Albemarle Square, he created a national stir. The New Yorker even ran a piece on the Chang frenzy. Naturally, the publicity attracted people from all over to sample the fare from the spice maestro.
Not only is the Chang deal good news for foodies, it's good news for the property, which has become a bit of an eyesore with tall grass and weeds growing up in the cracks in the parking lot. In 2002, Coran Capshaw’s WM Management Ltd. bought the site for $1.5 million. Four years later, the savvy music promoter sold it to the UVA Foundation for $2.5 million, leaving UVA to carry it through the real estate doldrums without a long-term tenant.
There have been Chang sightings in Marietta, Georgia, leading some to believe that Chang was setting up shop there, but according to our source Chang simply has friends there and likes to keep busy cooking. Chang quit Taste of China in March, mere days before the Hook's cover story chronicling his appeal.
“He’s at a restaurant two weeks, and he just leaves!” huffed Northern Virginia-based actor Robert Duvall in a New York Magazine article about his new movie Get Low, which also stars fellow Academy Award-winner Sissy Spacek.
"I don’t know how to track him down," grumbled Duvall. “My wife and I went to Charlottesville where he was supposed to be, and he was gone."
We know how you feel, Ned Pepper!
In the same article, the Albemarle-based Spacek resassures her co-star: “We’re gonna find him."
With a little help from Dish.
“Really–- he’s coming back?” exclaims Spacek during a recent chat with Dish on the Downtown Mall. “Oh, that’s so exciting. I’ve got to tell Bob [Duvall]."
Dish got a peek at the project plans which call for a somewhat formal dining room with several private rooms on one side, an open kitchen, and a more casual atmosphere on the other side. Chang plans to take charge of the formal section, while a cooking school classmate will run the casual space. There are also plans for a large outdoor dining area.
"You can definitely count on us old timers being there when it opens," says Spacek.
Indeed, with four months to go until Chang brings out his first dish, there’ll be plenty of time to dream about that spicy magic dancing on the tongue.