Andrew Thomas Lee
Andrew Thomas Lee

How Castellucci Hospitality Group Brought Mujō to Life

Heidi Harris

CEO Fred Castellucci

Since its inception in 2003, Castellucci Hospitality Group has blossomed into six distinct restaurants across the greater Atlanta area. The newest, Mujō, marks the group’s first collaboration with seasoned sushi chef J. Trent Harris. The concept began as a pop-up within Cooks & Soldiers, but its popularity quickly signaled the need for a space of its own.

As CEO Fred Castellucci explains, the process was far from straightforward. Japanese omakase was a departure from the group’s usual Italian and Spanish fare, and sourcing new ingredients and equipment was a challenge. But after months of delays, Mujō debuted, proving that even an established group can build something new from scratch.

Familiar challenges arise

The biggest challenge is simultaneously building a great team to follow through on the vision of the restaurant while managing the contractor, architect, engineer, and all other vendors that go into building and creating the restaurant. The ultimate product and guest experience are the summation of these parts—if the design is not right or the materials or the staff, then the concept delivery is not true to the original intent. It’s a tough balancing act to find all of these components and to get it right.

New concept, new hurdles

After building the team, coordinating the sources of the ingredients with Atlanta vendors, who had never done a concept of this nature, proved difficult. We had to essentially create the supply chain and educate [partners] every step of the way. We ran into significant challenges in getting specialized equipment that ultimately cost us eight months on our timeline. All of this also happened in the midst of the pandemic, which had its own supply chain delays and shortages. It definitely took a significant toll on everyone involved.

Executing the vision

Chef J. Trent Harris has been working on this [menu] his entire career. We completely trusted him to curate and execute something amazing. The biggest source of friction was actually creating the supply chain necessary to source and receive the products he needed to provide the caliber of dining experience we wanted to offer at Mujō.

Wading into new waters

My goal with every new concept has always been to do something that is one of a kind for the city of Atlanta, and ultimately, to be a small part of turning Atlanta into a world-class dining destination. We started Mujō as a pop-up, takeout-only omakase concept, and seeing how it was received among our customers inspired us to pursue the brick-and-mortar restaurant. Atlanta seemed ready and willing to embrace our style of dining and our product, and that was the driving force.

Word to the wise

Who says you have to fit into a box? Just because you have done one thing well doesn’t mean you can’t do other things well, too. If you are passionate about something, go for it.

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