When we heard Jeff McInnis had parted ways with Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, we were shocked. After all, it was barely two years ago that the young chef opened the restaurant in a partnership with 50 Eggs. But those two years were packed with accolades and milestones.
As soon as the restaurant opened in October 2011, it was an unmitigated success, serving to a packed house daily. Both the restaurant and the chef received several professional achievements, including nods from the James Beard Foundation, with McInnis named a Beard semifinalist for Best Chef South in 2012 and a finalist for the same award in 2013 and the restaurant a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2012.
But, as professionally satisfying as all of that must have been, McInnis chose to leave Yardbird. John Kunkel, CEO of 50 Eggs, told Short Order that McInnis' decision was "mutual" and that he chose "to take some time for himself and his family."
When we spoke with the young Top Chef alum soon after his departure, he said he was in California, cooking at a friend's restaurant, and wanted to "get back to why [he] fell in love with this industry in the first place."
Today, we received an email from McInnis, who is in Northern California. The chef, who spent a number of years cooking in San Francisco, told Short Order that he's currently cooking at his 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, " he said.
"For the time being, I'm just going to cook and relax. It's humbling getting back to the basics of why I got into this industry. "
McInnis said he'll also "take advantage of this down time and do some staging in a few restaurants around the country."
He also had nothing but praise for his time at Yardbird and issued the following statement:
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 are 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 myself 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!
Our advice to restaurants across the country: If McInnis shows up at your door asking for a "temporary" position, accept his offer immediately. And when his time is done at your place, please give him a one-way ticket back to Miami.