On Monday there was a major crack in the foundation that is the Miami-based restaurant empire 50 Eggs when Yardbird Southern Table & Bar executive chef/partner Jeff McInnis fled the coop. That departure, of course, led to great speculation, hints, allegations and rumors that McInnis is now addressing to set the record straight. McInnis, who is currently in San Francisco, has sent us his "official" statement via email.
I'm writing you this from Northern Cali. I lived here for a number of years cooking in San Francisco and it’s great to be back. I've decided to take advantage of this down time and do some staging in a few restaurants around the country. Currently I'm cooking at a friend’s restaurant, The Hillside Supper Club in the city. I miss the produce and seafood out here on the west coast, it's truly amazing. For the time being I'm just going to relax and cook. It's humbling getting back to the basics of why I got into this industry.
I would like to take a moment to say how happy I am with the outcome of where I was able to take Yardbird over the past couple of years. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed bringing the South to South Beach and am proud that I could show the folks of Miami some flavors from my heritage. I can't tell you how much this restaurant has helped me grow as a chef. Yardbird will always be very special to me, and a place I’ll forever call home. My staff is incredible and resilient and I have no doubt that Yardbird will remain Miami’s best for a very long time. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me build this incredible restaurant, as well as all of the locals who have supported Yardbird and me over the years. I look forward to what the talented staff and 50 Eggs team will continue to create and I promise that I’ll have something great cooking again real soon!
We also spoke with McInnis, who told us he has a 1-year-old daughter who needs some "daddy time," and emphasized that 50 Eggs CEO John Kunkel is a good friend and mentor. Same goes for ex-50 Eggs corporate chef Kenny Gilbert.
"Chef Kenny Gilbert and I have been very close friends for over 7 years now. We first met in 2005 when I was a chef at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. I actually begged Kenny to come on board at one of the country’s best restaurant groups, 50 Eggs, where we were reunited," McInnis said. "Kenny and I both worked task force for The Ritz-Carlton as a team through many difficult openings. When Mr. Kunkel decided to take his team to the next level we started brain storming for talented chefs to run his corporate office. We brought my friend and mentor Kenny Gilbert on as my superior corporate chef. "
McInnis says any rumors of bad blood between he, Gilbert and Kunkel are just that.
"Unfortunately as the news broke, it was not only incorrect, but it was disrespectful to two of my mentors, Mr. John Kunkel and Mr. Kenny Gilbert. There is a long wonderful story that I, as well as Kenny and the 50 Eggs team share. "
When asked if he will remain in his native Florida, McInnis, who plans to do some staging around at other restaurants, said, "I don't know."
We'll keep you posted.
Update, October 3: McInnis is heading to the Alphabet City in NYC where he and former colleague and Top Chef New Orleans contestant Janine Booth are opening Root & Bone a "roots revival of timeless Southern recipes & traditions. Dishes will be soul nurturing and will include farm-fresh ingredients, a true garden-to-table experience. Scheduled to open in January 2014, Root & Bone will be located in Alphabet City at 200 East 3rd Street." We wish them luck!