It is certainly the end of the Squeaky Bean as you know. Today, the Denver Post reported the departure of executive chef Max MacKissock. MacKissock cooked at the old Bean location in LoHi and reopened in the new location over a year ago. While owner Johnny Ballen put a great team in place for the restaurant, MacKissock can be primarily credited for the high acclaim that the restaurant has received, including a perfect four-star review from the Denver Post, a nomination in Bon Appetit's 50 best new restaurants, and a James Beard semi-finalist nod in the Best Chef Southwest category. The Squeaky Bean was also named Eater Restaurant of the Year and Max MacKissock was named Eater Chef of the Year.
So what went wrong? "There was not one dramatic thing that happened. Over the course of time, it was just a variety of things - business decisions and personality conflicts- that made it hard. At the end of the day, I was just not happy there," MacKissock says. "I gave my notice to Johnny a couple of weeks ago and let him know that I was ready to move on. I wanted to make sure that the transition was as smooth as possible. My goal was to help the restaurant get through the transition period seamlessly," he adds.
For his part, in the Denver Post piece, Ballen blames the tension on high food cost that MacKissock's kitchen was turning out. "If you're not making money, you can't keep making food," he says in the article.
The chef's departure brings along the departure of several other key players in the LoDo restaurant, most notably maitre d' Stephen Gallic. Gallic, a consummate front of the house professional, has been the face of the restaurant over the last few years. He has previously worked with MacKissock both at the old Bean and at Vita. Also leaving the LoDo stoves is sous chef Blake Edmunds and several other staff members.
The future holds a time of exploration and a new venture for MacKissock, one that more closely matches his vision. "Right now, my focus is on making my career better. It's been a tough decision, particularly because I don't have an immediate next venture, but I am very confident it was the right call," MacKissock explains. "I have a vision for doing something that is really great. I would like to have Stephen [Gallic] and Blake [Edmunds] with me when that happens. When that time comes, expect a more of a personalized experience- a place that shows through with my own vision. I am not in any rush to force that to happen and will certainly take on some projects in the interim," he concludes.
The new leader of the kitchen at the Squeaky Bean remains unknown, but Theo Adley's name has been circulated. Adley previously owned the Pinyon in Boulder, a restaurant that closed in April of 2012.
It is a time of serious transformation for the Squeaky Bean who lost not only its chef, but also its maitre d' and, as reported earlier today, its bar management. Big shoes to fill on all fronts.
· Squeaky Bean Bar Shake Up: Sean Kenyon and Nick Touch Out, Brian Smith In [EDen]
· Denver Chefs Recognized as James Beard Semi-Finalists [EDen]
· The Squeaky Bean Among Bon Appetit's 50 Best New Restaurant Nominees [EDen]
· Squeaky Bean in LoDo Wows Crowds With Stylish Room, Big Flavors [DP]