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Ludivine loses a co-founder but promises continued growth

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The dynamic duo who co-founded Ludivine, and the R&J Lounge and Supper Club has split.

Chef Jonathon Stranger has left his business partnership with chef Russ Johnson and local businessman Chip Fudge.

Johnson remains as the culinary driving force behind Ludivine, the R&J and the upcoming Eagle Milling and Yacht Club.

“We got to the point where we wanted different things,” Johnson said. “Continuing to do Ludivine, R&J and other projects with Chip, are more in line with what I want, and what Chip wants, for the future.”

Stranger’s immediate future will focus on a new project in Nichols Hills Plaza and family: “I am going to continue as consulting chef on current projects like En Croute, spend more time with my family, and work on some culinary events.”

The farm-to-table concept with a weekly revolving menu has drawn attention from national media and a strong foundation of regular customers since it opened in October of 2011. It’s hosted celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Rick Bayless and helped inspire the movement towards sourcing local ingredients whether by partnering with local farms, leaning on the farmers markets or foraging their own.

The news comes as the partnership group enters the early stages of developing its third and fourth concepts, Eagle Milling Co. and The Yacht Club in Edmond. But chef Henry Boudreaux, formerly of The Museum Café, recently joined the team. Boudreaux is scheduled to move to Eagle Milling when it opens, but for now will continue to support the culinary team at Ludivine.

“We have a great team assembled already with Shannon Goforth and Brad Ackerman, among others, and we’ve recently brought on chef Henry Boudreaux as well to keep us at the forefront of the culinary scene in Oklahoma City.”

Johnson said the future is as bright as ever for his restaurants.

“It’s already been a great year for our restaurants, and in this industry, we’re fortunate enough that the end of the year is our busiest time,” he said. “We’re booming for the (holiday) season already, and we’re just focused on making that experience the best for everyone.”

Fudge made it clear Stranger’s departure doesn’t curtail the partnership’s plans for growth.

“While Russ is busy running the holidays at the restaurants, I am continuing to seek out new locations for opportunities for us to expand,” he said. “We will continue to grow, which is why we’ve brought on new talent and have been grooming existing talent for leadership roles as well.”

That growth includes Eagle Milling and the Yacht Club. Located on the old Edmond ice house property just west of the railroad, the concepts will open next year. The Yacht Club will be a fun, casual dining experience focused on seafood with a market in a relaxed atmosphere. Eagle Milling will pay homage to classic design with a modern, approachable interpretation in a family environment.

En Croute, a fromagerie and wine bar, is scheduled to open by month's end if all remains on schedule.

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