Chef Leon C. Brunson shares big news: ‘I bought a restaurant’

by Tallahassee Table

Many of you probably know vivacious and talented chef Leon C. Brunson from his years cooking at popular Kool Beanz Cafe or as a cooking teacher of in-person or virtual cooking classes. But, at age 26, this local chef has now taken another big step. 

  “I bought a restaurant,” said an exuberant Leon, making the announcement on a livestream reveal March 18.

A screenshot of Leon Brunson announcing his plans to open a restaurant in Lake Ella.

He has purchased KB Kitchen in Lake Ella from Keith Baxter, owner of Kool Beanz Cafe. Leon plans to convert the cozy cottage into a space for catering, classes, intimate dinners and culinary events. 

 He’s calling the restaurant, Leon’s, and said he expects to open in the fourth quarter of the year.

   “It’s a new era for me,” said Leon, who will present a range of cuisines at his cafe, from Southern-style and vegetarian to international choices like Japanese and Mexican fare. 

Leon C. Brunson will be converting this cottage into his new restaurant, Leon’s. Photo courtesy/ Leon C. Brunson

Leon had worked at Kool Beanz until the pandemic forced the popular destination, like so many other restaurants, to close or offer takeout only. Leon switched gears by hosting free cooking classes, private events and doing catering. 

He recently participated in the cooking demonstrations held during the first food and wine festival sponsored by Cleaver and Cork. The culinary event and fundraiser benefited the Tallahassee Community College Foundation’s Athletics Program.

Leon said he wants to continue working with local charities and nonprofits, such as Second Harvest of the Big Bend.

In March 2020, Leon was working at Kool Beanz when Baxter talked to him about buying KB, which hadn’t opened. Leon worked on getting investors but in the meantime Baxter sold the restaurant. It was a blessing because right after that, the pandemic hit.

As it turned out, the Lake Ella restaurant site became available again this year and Leon decided to take the plunge. 

Leon C. Brunson was among the chefs participating in the cooking demonstration at Cleaver & Cork, the premier culinary event and fundraiser for the Tallahassee Community College Foundation. Photo by Alicia Devine / Tallahassee Democrat

Announcing his new venture, Leon was clearly ecstatic about realizing a longtime dream.

“It’s crazy!” he said. 

Leon was enthusiastic about cooking from Day One, when he started working at Waffle House during high school.

 “Every single day was so much fun for me!” he said.

 Leon also worked at the acclaimed restaurant, Firefly, in Panama City for nearly two years..

“While in school, I worked my way up in restaurants to obtain real-life skills along with conventional training,” Leon states on his website. “Graduating culinary school in 2015 was preceded by my father having a life-threatening brain aneurysm.”

“I decided to get my bachelor’s in neuroscience from Florida State University. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in 2018, I realized my heart was in food,” he said.

Leon C. Brunson in his element. Photo courtesy of the chef.

When Leon discussed his virtual classes he told Tallahassee Table: “Ultimately, it’s about sharing what I love and helping others.” 

He will continue virtual programs, like his upcoming April 2 interview with Sylvia Gould, Kool Beanz’ pastry chef and James Beard semifinalist. 

Leon states his mission this way. “ I want to share my experiences with people to motivate them toward supporting local farms and communities, encouraging sustainability, preserving traditions and making new ones. ”

And he wants to connect people through food, through tradition and through techniques. 

He’s well on his way. 

We congratulate you, Leon! All the best!

You can find out more about Leon on his website, leoncbrunson.com/

Top photo credit / Leon C. Brunson

You may also like

Leave a Comment