Jeff McInnis has left Yardbird Southern Table & Bar.
Both McInnis and 50 Eggs owner John Kunkel have confirmed to Short Order the departure of the chef/partner.
Kunkel, CEO of Yardbird's parent company, 50 Eggs, told Short Order that McInnis had left "a couple of weeks ago to take some time with his family." Kunkel said this was "something we spoke about for some time and that we support him in this mutual decision to take some time for himself and his family and look forward to possibly doing another project with him in the future."
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McInnis confirmed his departure, adding that his immediate goal is to "get back to why I fell in love with this industry in the first place."
McInnis was chef de cuisine at the DiLido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach when his good looks and culinary skills made him a breakout star on Top Chef's season five, in which he competed against 16 other contestants, including Carla Hall and Fabio Viviani.
After that, McInnis was named chef de cuisine at the noodle bistro Gigi in midtown Miami. In March 2011, McInnis parted ways with the restaurant. Gigi's owner, Amir Ben-Zion, explained to Short Order "that the split was amicable and it was never the intention of the restaurant or McInnis to stay beyond the first few months after opening."
In April of that year, Short Order reported the chef was working on the menu for a new Southern concept restaurant, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. McInnis would serve as chef and partner of this 50 Eggs restaurant.
Yardbird opened October 2011 to packed houses and critical acclaim. McInnis was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef South in 2012 and a finalist for the same award in 2013.
Yardbird was a Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2012 and was named one of Bon Appétit's 50 Best New Restaurants 2012. Miami New Times also named Yardbird Best Restaurant on South Beach in 2012.
Taking over the helm at Yardbird's kitchen is Clay Miller, who, according to Kunkel, will push Yardbird to the next level. "He has a great background that will be a good fit for Yardbird," Kunkel said.
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Miller, named one of Food & Wine's Best News Chefs of 2010, has an extensive culinary background, including stints working for renowned chefs such as Daniel Boulud at Daniel, Floyd Cardoz at Tabla, and Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. Miller has also earned a Rising Star Chef award from StarChefs.com. Most recently, he held the executive chef position at Wit & Wisdom, a Tavern by Michael Mina at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland.
Additional reporting by Emily Codik.