Some of the best dishes demand lots of time, but just a few simple ingredients. Take the recipe for Fredericksburg restaurant Foode: equal parts family tradition and classroom assignment, with a dash of Atlanta traffic tossed in.
Since Foode’s 2011 opening, chef Joy Crump has tripled its size. She’s cooked at New York’s esteemed James Beard House; appeared online, in magazines and on TV; and, with business partner Beth Black, opened two other eateries. But as high as she climbs, Crump seems to stay grounded—big on casual hospitality, big on community and, under all that big hair, big on bringing back memories through food.
Born in Pennsylvania, one of six children, Crump was 3 when her parents divorced. With one on one coast and one on the other—at least for a while—the family traveled to be together for special occasions. But plane tickets left little money for fun, so Crump and her siblings found theirs in the kitchen.
“Cooking together is what you do to say ‘I love you,’ ” she said in a 2016 interview, “and we cook our asses off!”
She studied creative writing at Penn State near her mom, then moved near her dad in L.A., where she worked on films for Warner Brothers. In her spare time, just for fun, she’d cater for the company, too, and for other VIP clients, like Capital Records.
“I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that [cooking] was the thing nagging at me,” she said.
When most of her family landed on the East Coast, Crump came back, too, taking a job with Fox in Atlanta, where she met Black. An executive producer, she was “a baller,” Crump said, honest, smart, driven and organized. They hit it off.
It was at Black’s insistence that she follow her passion that Crump signed up for culinary school. At the Art Institute of Atlanta, she studied under Hawks head chef Bradley Rouse and other big names, and wrote that game-changing thesis. The mock business she created for class was too promising to leave on the page. But what to call it?
The pair was in traffic on Ponce de León Avenue, discussing just that when they saw a license plate that read, “FOODIE.” They took out the “I” to make it their own, and a catering company called Foode was born. Among her first jobs, Crump cooked custom-made meals—grilled meats and veggies, build-your-own tacos—for their colleagues at Fox.
She was in her mid-30s when her dad passed away without warning, and she had an epiphany: “You can make lots of money doing something you like, or you can do something you love.”
It was 2009, and the recession had ripped into Atlanta. Both Crump and Black felt it was time for a change, time to find a storefront for Foode. But where? Black had an idea. She’d grown up in Manassas, with fond memories of time spent in Fredericksburg, and when Crump came to visit, she fell in love, too.
When Foode opened on Caroline Street, diners flocked to its farm-to-table philosophy and casual feel. “We’re flip-flops and jeans,” says its LinkedIn page. “We are redefining fine dining.”
The restaurant was small, but they got creative, stringing colorful umbrellas over the alleyway entrance to add table space. But when Crump’s special spin on Southern classics like shrimp and grits, and her mother’s fried chicken with waffles, caught on, they needed more. In 2016—after an intense renovation—Foode moved into the old National Bank building on Princess Anne Street, increasing its 30-seat service to 90.
The pair also owns Fredericksburg’s Mercantile, which serves breakfast and lunch, and until recently, the restaurant side of the 6 Bears & a Goat brewery in Stafford. “That’s three kitchens, three teams of chefs, bartenders, servers, mangers, accountants, attorneys, investors, partners and all the guests,” she said last year in a TEDxRVA talk. “They’re all looking to me for leadership every single day.”
Still, some say Crump’s biggest culinary coup was landing a spot on season 12 of TV’s “Top Chef.” Just two episodes in, she was asked to “pack her knives and go home,” but the legacy lives on. Four years later, she’s still fielding questions about her time on the show.
Lately, she and Black have helped create Dominion Public Market, a three-story culinary hub set to open in Fredericksburg next summer. And Crump landed a recipe in the James Beard Foundation’s new cookbook, “Waste Not,” aimed at food waste, a cause close to her heart. For Breakfast Fried Rice, she makes use of the bland white rice left over from Chinese takeout by frying it the next morning with greens or whatever she has in the fridge.
“It’s one recipe in one cookbook,” she said, “but it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
At home, she goes simple, cooking batches of brown rice and veggies to nuke through the week or sneaking over to her new Fredericksburg fave, Mian Noodle House. Oh, and that one guilty pleasure? French fries. “Crinkle, skinny, bay ...” she said. “I can’t get enough.”
To relax, she might walk her bulldog, Chuck, along the river. But her passions—among them, food policy, fighting hunger and working with kids—leave little chance to unwind.
“I’m cooking this big soup. It’s like a stew, really, of trials and errors and failures and accomplishments, and frustration and learning and growing ... and it’s never ever done,” she told TEDxRVA. “But that’s cool, because in my world the best recipes take a long time.”