First, Brett McKee announced his departure from Oak Steakhouse in September. It was billed as an amicable split. Then, Steve Palmer, the remaining partner at Oak, told us in October that his buddy John Zucker of Cru Café and Catering would be coming on board as executive chef and partner. Now, a month later, Zucker is out and Jeremiah Bacon from Carolina's is in.
Zucker and Palmer say they were unable to come to a workable arrangement. They both express regret that it didn't work out and wish each other the best. Zucker says he will keep his focus on Cru.
As for Bacon, he is leaving Carolina's and coming over to begin work at Oak on Nov. 19. Bacon has been at Carolina's since 2007, establishing himself as a chef with deep respect for local farmers and fishermen.
We talked to him this morning as he rode his bike to work. He says he'll remain dedicated to the farm-to-table aesthetic and put a progressive, local spin on Oak's classic steakhouse menu.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to be at Oak," says Bacon, "and excited to help foster the farm-to-plate initiative there and figure out how you can do that in a steakhouse."
He told the staff at Carolina's this week that he's leaving and will be helping transition Jill Mathias from sous chef to head chef there.
"I'm really excited for her," he says. "She's very talented, and it's a great opportunity."
At Oak, Bacon expects his influence on the menu will be felt quickly when it comes to local produce and seafood, but expects sourcing meat will be a longer process. "I would love to have local and regional meat on there. Those are options. We'll definitely explore those. But we'll see, that kind of stuff takes a lot of time."
He doesn't expect to show up in the kitchen at Oak and make big changes, except for one in particular. "I cook on the line at Carolina's, so I like being on that side," he says. "I don't know if that's what they're used to at Oak, but I plan to be in front of the stove. If there's not a spot, then we'll make one."
His philosophy when it comes to running a kitchen is two heads are better than one. "I run a constructive kitchen, a think-tank kitchen," he says. "Motivation from humiliation is not how I do it."
That should make the guys at Oak feel pretty good about the regime change.