Executive chef Aaron London
At under 30 years of age, Chef Aaron London already brings more than a dozen years of culinary experience to his position as executive chef at Ubuntu, the Michelin-starred “vegetable” restaurant in Napa, CA. Growing up in Sonoma County, CA, London always dreamed of becoming a chef and as a teenager, London cooked for just about anybody who’d eat his food—friends, family members, even neighbors. Finally, at 14, he got his first job as a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant in his hometown.
From there, London attended the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY, and, on weekends during school, took the train down to New York City to stage at top restaurants such as Daniel and Café Boulud. After completing his first term in 2002, he worked for six months in a full-time externship at Daniel before moving to Montréal (where his Grandmother Cook lived) in 2003. North of the border, London helped open Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, which still regarded as one of the city’s top eateries. In 2004, London moved to Restaurant Toque, and after a year and a half as a Chef de Partie, London returned to the U.S. to complete his schooling at CIA and work at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, NY.
In 2007, London took some time to recharge and think about what he wanted to do next. After some time back in Northern California’s Wine Country, he flew to Europe, where he bicycled from one country to another, staging at restaurants along the way. He lingered under the tutelage of Chef Pascal Barbot at Astrance in Paris, and also spent time at Chef Alain Passard’s L’Arpège. Following Paris London staged at La Chassagnette in Provence, well known for its garden to table menu. Later in the trip, while in San Sebastian, Spain, London received word from his father about the opening of Ubuntu. Seeing Ubuntu as a potentially his “dream restaurant,” he was soon on a plane back to the U.S.
London started at Ubuntu during the restaurant’s fourth week of business as a line cook, and later became a sous chef before moving to executive sous chef. Finally, he was promoted to chef de cuisine under Jeremy Fox, the restaurant’s former executive chef, and served in that role for nearly a year before assuming the lead spot in the kitchen.
London lives in Napa and is an avid bicyclist.
Ubuntu is an ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other emphasizing community, sharing and generosity. The word has its origin in the Zulu people of southern Africa and was introduced to Ubuntu owner/founder Sandy Lawrence in her work in South Africa over a 14 year period.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained Ubuntu as follows (2008):
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Our mission at Ubuntu is to bring to our customers a bounty of local biodynamically gardened produce handled with care and skill by talented artisans and chefs providing an unparallel experience connecting our customers to the bounty of the earth. Our mission is extended beyond the customer and includes providing a sustainable workplace environment and interconnectedness with our providers and our local communities.
This philosophy is multidimensional, beginning with the transformation of the historic 19th century building in the heart of downtown Napa into a model of "green design" by using recycled products throughout the spaces of the restaurant, yoga studio and annex and featuring more than 70% sustainably farmed wines in our wine selection. Our green philosophy also extends to providing an exceptional dining experience with the most reduced carbon footprint possible. The vegetable inspired menu features the ingredients from our local Napa gardens adhering to the seasonal calendar and participating with local producers for products we are unable to farm contributing to a greener earth by relying less on global food sources and those products with the highest carbor emission and water footprint.