The chef has landed: Elusive Chang nabs high-profile Charlottesville home

dish-chang-asianbuffet-webHouse of Chang: The former Asian Buffet building on 29 North has been vacant for years, but it's poised to become the talk of the town.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR

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.

dish-chang-cookingPeter Chang plans to once again work his magic in Charlottesville.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO

“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.

38 comments

Not. Gonna. Happen.

Yeah, right. He's here. He's gone. Who cares? I tried his food. He's no Eric Ripert.

Yum! cant wait

This reminds me of my lawsuit.

Lector said, "....my first laugh out LOAD on the computer." That's sick.

Darn, I wish I had some good local asian food up here in the stix of wisconsin!

@Yes:

That was my first laugh out load on the computer today. And I've been on the computer far too much today.

You forgot Tim Rose! lol

Dave McNair

Foodies? What are they? Like Realators?

angel eyes,

"the amount of vacant commercial real estate is huge and constantly growing."

That is why the City's desire to rezone a residential place to commercial was so incredibly stupid. Great deal for a homeowner that doesn't want to take care of their home, but stupid in terms of development. I know the county can be idiotic in the same way.

Nothing against Chang or restaurants in general, but I say it again - it's time to encourage better balanced commercial activity. Ones with reasonable jobs with benefits to compete with UVA, would really be nice. As resentment towards dumping China grows, this area is primed for all sorts of small cottage industries.

When I finally needed some new stainless flatware, I found that even Oneida had gone to slave labor markets. Price hadn't dropped but the quality sure had. I finally found two small American companies in the North East that each were making some simple, but nice and well made flatware. It cost me, what, 15% more? A sum total of 20 dollars more for something made better and that will last longer and provide jobs?

But you just don't see that down here in the hate unions South, do you? This area has the educated people and the financial backers to start something like that that cold really become a community staple.

Instead the Capshaws and the Danielsons and the Minors all want to back venues that cater to a vulnerable and contentious business model that hurts everyone around it but themselves without providing quality long term jobs.

@ tw@t.waffles.org

ââ?¬Å?You eat out to get food that’s unusual, or difficult to prepare.”

No, boooo!. Thats why YOU go out to eat.
____

True, that is why I go out to eat. Most everybody else goes out to eat because they're too lazy to cook their own food, or worse.....they don't even know how. o_O

@ Andrea

Probably because Ragazzis doesn't do the "Neverending Bowl of Pasta" and "All you can eat processed white bread" like Olive Garden. The fatties love that sort of thing.

Well, Chef Chang, if you ever read this, please know that we here in Baton Rouge are in serious need of your fine cuisine.

Y'all come on down, ya hear.

A little bird told me that Mr. Chang is eying a place in Bacon Hollow. I say: Howdy neighbor!

I'll believe it when I see it. That's one helluva giant empty space right dere.......

busco trabajo

todo esta bien pero lo malo esque los chinos no se ba±an y las meseras tanbien

Great news, and something to look forward to - I hope; .1% enthusiasm held in reserve.

Wow, name dropping Peter Chang, Coran Capshaw, Robert Duvall, and Sissy Spacek in one Hook article! If Dave Matthews had been said to be supplying organic local produce for the restaurant, then someone would have had a bingo.

Sorry Dave, Tim Rose doesn't rate very high in the glamor news. The average person couldn't pick him out of a line up.

More meow mix to pick from.....not.

So maybe the guy will "sign" a multi-year lease with UVA and UVA can securitize that lease and sell it. Anyone want to buy in?

Never got to try his food. maybe I will now. But this area really needs to get a grip on it's very lopsided business development here. There is more to life than eating out. One more reason so many Americans are fat.

"You eat out to get food that’s unusual, or difficult to prepare."

No, boooo!. Thats why YOU go out to eat.

Agree that Chang's prices were reasonable. Maybe a little higher than your typical Chinese garbage but most entrees in the 10's.

That's the funny thing about most of the C'ville restaurant scene, but I find very few restaurants are overpriced and 90% of them are using local-sourced ingredients. Do people know how rare it is to find the depth and variety of reasonably priced and locally owned restaurants that Charlottesville has for the size of the town??

I say... Big Deal... most people around here don't give a hoot... and most can't afford to eat there.. I know I won't eat there..
Let Sissy and Bob eat there all they want.. I think it's silly and a bit too snobbish...

Big deal. Clamor on.

@St.Halsey...was just funin' fella :)

Honestly, all I ask for is an Olive Garden or Carrabas. How difficult would it be to have a restaurant like this in town, hmmm?

At UVA's cost basis of $2.5M, figure $20K minimum monthly rent. So it would have to sell "bowcoops" General Tso's chicken to handle that. That's one of the things about the real estate bubble; not only can normal people not buy houses without "creative financing" and 10% annual appreciation, but businesses can't pay the rents being asked. Taking a walk around town, the amount of vacant commercial real estate is huge and constantly growing. maybe Chang can strike a deal where he can rent for $10K and be able to afford it. UVA would lose money, but not as much as they're losing letting the place sit empty.

I hope the comment about olive garden or carrabas is a joke. it's an insult to the peter chang thread. :)

I used to crush some Asian Buffet. I remember when it closed down...like 7 years ago??? Hard to believe it has just been sitting there.

What's with the frequent requests all around the Hook comments for an "Olive Garden"? It's a freaking pasta joint. Like I said in the comments area about the new "Boneless Wings" joint - you never go to a restaurant and order pasta, or chicken. That's inexpensive, mindless food that one can prepare at home for 1/4 the cost. You eat out to get food that's unusual, or difficult to prepare.

I think only fat people want an Olive Garden, because of the "Neverending Bowl of Pasta" or whatever it is they have there, and all that endless garlic bread. Gorging on white bread and piles of wheat pasta......yeah, that's healthy for you. o_O No wonder Diabetes and obesity is absolutely epidemic in our country.

Agreed that Olive Garden is bunk though

Why do you need Olive Garden - there's Raggazzi's which is a perfectly reasonable "family style" restaurant for Italian if you don't want to go to some place more authentic like Fellini's.
We loved Chef Chang and his authentic yet innovative Chinese cuisine in contrast to the kinds of things the Asian Buffet (like most American Chinese restaurants) used to serve, and really hope this latest rumor becomes reality.

Has this been confirmed yet. For Lease sign is still on building and the property is still listed on Bob Kahn website.

In many cases, these local restaurants are even cheaper than their chain counterparts. For e.g., the prices at Fry's Spring Station aren't any higher than those at the california Pizza Kithcen ar Short Pump, and they have a lot better beer.

K doesn't know what it's talking about. Chang's prices at Taste of China were no higher than the low-end Chinese fare everywhere else in town serves. Just because something is better than something else doesn't make someone who appreciates the better version a snob. It just means they are less easily satisfied by inferior versions. But, hey, we know some people will take anything -- it's the reason GM cars are still being sold, why network TV still exists, why the Daily Progress hasn't lost all its circulation, and why McDonald's is still a money mint even though it always has the lowest rated burgers in taste tests.