Mario Valdovino has watched the excitement being created in downtown Bentonville, and has decided to get right in the middle of it.
Valdovino, the corporate executive chef and director of culinary innovation, research and development for Tyson Foods Inc., is planning to open a business called MOD Restaurant & Social. It will be in a 2,000-SF space on the west side of the new three-story Midtown Center, developed by the Walton family holding company, Walton Enterprises.
He said he would like to have the restaurant open by the end of January. There will be seating for 65 to 75 patrons.
“I am thrilled with the excitement and exploration being generated by downtown Bentonville,” Valdovino said. “The area continues to evolve its culinary offerings, and the region’s chefs are working hard to create savory and eclectic dishes with unique menus.”
Valdovino has hired William McCormick as MOD’s executive chef. McCormick is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute and has worked for some of the top chefs in Boston and Dallas. He was most recently the executive chef at Farrell’s Lounge in downtown Fayetteville.
Phillip Price will be the libations director. Valdovino said he still has one other person to hire to round out the “front of the house” management team.
MOD, an acronym for modern Ozark dining, will be unique, Valdovino said, in that it will not feature a traditional a la carte menu, but rather a multi-course tasting menu.
“The area is craving new things, and this will be really creative, fun stuff,” Valdovino explained. “Think of it as one flat rate gets you a terrific meal. Think what UBER is doing. They’re training the world to pay flat rates for everything. Our flat rate gets you our dining experience.”
Valdovino said price points are still being determined. He and his team have been doing research & development work for several months in a space in downtown Springdale.
Patrons will be treated to a modern interpretation “of the quality and simplicity of the Ozark’s seasonal pantry,” he said.
An early look at a few of MOD’s sample dishes include:
• Burrata, Sicilian Castelvetrano olive mash, olive oil;
• Smoked chicken, puffed barley, caraway oil, beets, buttermilk whey and pears;
• Whole-roasted king trumpet mushrooms, almond butter, dandelion greens with curd, cured egg yolk and spinach espuma;
• Rockbridge Rainbow Trout, black garlic aioli, furikake-pork cracklins, fermented cabbage; and
• Grilled goetta sausage, charred onion, dates and green apple.
“We want to enhance the local bounty with our progressive approach to global foods and preparation techniques,” Valdovino said.
MOD will also have a lounge, but Valdovino maintained that the business will be more of a restaurant than a bar.
True to Tyson
Valdovino, a California native, said he has no plans to leave his job at Tyson Foods, where he’s been for nearly 20 years.
He worked for several fine-dining establishments in San Francisco before getting a job in food manufacturing at Mallard’s Food Products of Modesto, Calif. Tyson acquired the company in 1997.
Valdovino then went to work as a research chef at Culinary Foods in Chicago, part of the Tyson Foods family.
In 2007, Tyson opened its 100,000-SF Discovery Center, with 19 specialized research kitchens, and Valdovino came to Northwest Arkansas for an opportunity to “have a national platform to change the way America eats.”
Valdovino was later recognized as part of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class of 2011.
“I think I have the best job in Northwest Arkansas, and I love this company very much,” he said.