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Joël Antunes no longer with Oak Room at Plaza Hotel

Joël Antunes, the chef who left his namesake restaurant in Atlanta to take over the kitchen at the fabled Oak Room in New York’s Plaza Hotel, has been let go, according to Oak Room management.

Antunes was hired following a national search to helm the kitchen in the Oak Room, which reopened several months ago following a massive face lift. His luxurious French cooking was pitched to evoke the Gilded Age glory days of the Oak Room.

But reviews have been poor. After receiving a one-star takedown from the New York Times’ powerful restaurant critic, Frank Bruni, the chef got drubbed again in the most recent edition of New York magazine with a zero-star review

No word yet on the chef’s next move, but sources say the chances of him returning to the Atlanta restaurant that bears his name are quite unlikely.

61 comments Add your comment

Colly Mitchell

February 25th, 2009
7:59 pm

Ouch. Poor Joel! It’s incredible how far his shiny star has fallen….wonder if he’ll return to ATL?


February 25th, 2009
10:37 pm

his no star cuisine will be right at home in atlanta


February 25th, 2009
10:41 pm

“his no star cuisine will be right at home in atlanta”

You are correct!!!


February 25th, 2009
10:52 pm

Come on, outside of the Michelin starred/ $30 entrée stops, there is nothing special to eat in NYC. I would argue outside of these wallet busting gems NYC has worse food than most mid major cities, and overpriced at that.


February 25th, 2009
11:40 pm

Whats that song “If you can make their you can make it any where in Old NY Newwwwww Yorkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk” Joel didn’t make it
Went Joel’sAtl 2 X mas’s Ago it totally s_cked.

Lt. Col. Frank Slade

February 26th, 2009
12:02 am




February 26th, 2009
12:40 am

Welcome back to ATL!

When I ate at Joel during December I was not so impressed. The food was solid but the service was so-so.

howard stern

February 26th, 2009
12:50 am

taco bell will take you


February 26th, 2009
2:43 am

Mark, run your commentary through spell check before posting your comments. I wonder why it is that so many people delight when other people are knocked?

[...] in all walks of life, as far as the NYC dining scene goes – he may be just that.  As John Kessler has noted, Antunes has joined the rank and file of the [...]


February 26th, 2009
6:22 am

Michelin $30.00 entree stops? There are plenty of GREAT restaurants in NYC! I can tell you (Michael) make frequent visits to the Big Apple. You probably have not even stepped out of Podunk, Georgia. Many restaurants in NYC have great food and surroundings, many just have great food, while others have “good” food but is a place to be seen and to see. If you ever decide to venture out of your double wide leave a note and I will be more than happy to give to you a list of great restaurants with great food and great surroundings in NYC!

Cuz Tom

February 26th, 2009
8:13 am

Wow Jim…..easy brother. That was Michael’s opinion. Is he not entitled to his own opinion????? Would it have not sufficed to say that you disagreed with him and mention a few good or great resturants??? I do not see the necessity of all the mean comments. But if you are from NYC then you are probably used to people being rude.


February 26th, 2009
8:26 am

If you think New York is so great then go back!!!


February 26th, 2009
8:51 am

Joel’s Atlanta restaurant was 90% FABRICATED HYPE. The artistic garnishments of the meals were emphasized instead of taste. The authentic French dining experience was aptly delivered by a staff who perfected the brusque and rude waiter role. The piece du resistance was always the inexplicably outrageous prices.

Successful businesses put the customer first, Joel believes his own fabricated hype and puts himself first. Customers vote with their wallets.

Big Wheel

February 26th, 2009
9:08 am

Sounds like there are some NY homers in the crowd, in fact I am seeing more and more Ny license plates every year. Come to think of it, NY is a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there either. Welcome to the south, enjoy it or get the hell out.

Matt M.

February 26th, 2009
9:16 am

The current Joel restaurant is about as far removed from Joel Antunes as the moon is from the earth. The fare offered at Joel is significantly improved from that of the old regime IMHO. Let’s keep in perspective that Joel restaurant was just recently awarded 4 stars from the AAA and 5 stars from the AJC. The detractors that have taken the opportunity to bash this establishment based on it’s old namesake must have an axe to grind. Joel’s is a fine establishment and provides its diners with an exemplary culinary experience from the quality of menu to the excellent service provided by its staff.


February 26th, 2009
9:31 am

The current chef at Joël, Cyrille Holata, is really a fine chef in his own right and is putting his mark on the restaurant. I think we’re lucky to have him in this town.

Also, I’m chasing down a rumor that Antunes has another job lined up, and it’s not in Atlanta. I really wish him well. Whatever any of us thought of his cooking, he certainly added a dimension to the local restaurant scene that left a mark.

[...] Kessler reports on the firing of Joel Antunes from the Oak Room. (Thanks to foodieman for the tip, [...]


February 26th, 2009
10:01 am

I have an original menu from the “glory days” of the Plaza hotel.
The self-centered cuisine of Joel Antunes does not even come close to the culinary dining experience enjoyed by my grandparents back in the days when it was “real food”, not a fabricated designer looking dish.

M. Johnson

February 26th, 2009
10:04 am

I agree with John Kessler, Joel Antunes is a great chef who helped elevate the Atlanta dining scene. I hate that things didn’t work out in New York, but I wish him well. And Joel is still a wonderful restaurant.

Fat Man

February 26th, 2009
10:09 am

The bottom line is that NYC is a tough town. Many (but not all) Atlanta restaurants that are lauded would receive 1-2 stars from this same reviewer. I also imagine that the meal he gave 0 stars would get at least 3/4 if it was served here in Atlanta.

My issue with dining in Atlanta is that all the “nice” restaurants serve nearly the exact same food—some kind of “farm fresh twist on new southern cuisine”. Give me a break. How many different takes on shrimp and grits do we need? How many $12 cocktails? I feel like I could write the menu blind at these places and be correct 80% of the time.

For my money, the best, most authentic food still remains in Buford Highway with only a few exceptions.


February 26th, 2009
10:27 am

The BrewHouse is looking for a chef!

Happy to be Here

February 26th, 2009
10:29 am

Perhaps a few of you should take yourselves to some place more deserving of you. We simple southerners will do our best to adjust to your absence.

Jennifer Zyman

February 26th, 2009
10:52 am

I just have to say I find it quite sad that anonymous posters feel the need to kick the chef while he is down. Imagine if someone mocked you after you got fired from your job. I know he is public figure, but whatever happened to showing a little class and restraint?

As for Joel’s future, I am positive the chef will land on his feet. I had some truly wonderful meals at his restaurant before and after the renovation. I wish him the best of luck.


February 26th, 2009
11:19 am

Nicolas Bour

February 26th, 2009
11:52 am

I agree with Jennifer (Blissful Glutton), why is it that people enjoy when others fail?

Joel Antunes is a great Chef with many years of success under his Toque, it is normal for everyone to encounter a situation in their career where things just don’t work out. I imagine only great things for Chef Joel in his future.



February 26th, 2009
12:14 pm

Fat man is right on. Buford Hwy food is off the chain.


February 26th, 2009
12:17 pm

Hey, Happy to be here. I’m so happy to read that. So funny. Right on the money. I am rollin’ !!!!!!!!!!

Meridith Ford Goldman

February 26th, 2009
12:23 pm

Joel Antunes is one of the best chefs this city has ever seen — gifted at both procuring excellent ingredients and creating astounding, dazzling dishes. Bruni actually had plenty of good things to say about Antunes’ cooking in the review. Just because the fit at the Oak Room wasn’t right doesn’t mean he can’t cook. Whereever he ends up — and I doubt it will be Atlanta — I wish him well.


February 26th, 2009
12:31 pm

I have known Joel for several years and have been lucky enough to call him a Client. Joel is a hard-charging individual that is very determined. It is disapointing to see this misfortune for Joel, but knowing his character and determination I’d say that he’ll bounce back from this like the other challenges he has faced in times past.

You won’t find a harder working more dedicated individual.

Algonquin J. Calhoun

February 26th, 2009
12:41 pm

He’ll soon be smothering and covering and cookin’ ‘em hash brown pertaters. Waffle House food always gets good reviews, so he’d better study up on sunny-side up and scramblin’ and all that. “Mornin’.


February 26th, 2009
12:54 pm

Well it appears that I did jerk a few chains! BTW, I am not a New Yorker but am from the South and have always lived in the South. I have traveled extensively however and do happen to know (my opionon) a good restaurant from a bad restaurant and good food from great food. I did live in NYC for three years and found virtually 100% of “real” NYers to be very nice and not rude as some of you are saying. I did get a little discussion going and that is a good thing – right CUZ?

Algonquin J. Calhoun

February 26th, 2009
1:00 pm

If you would like to make a donation for Mr. Antune you may do so through UNICHEF. Please keep in mind the displaced practitioners of the culinary arts. Remember, a mime is a terrible thing to taste.

Algonquin J. Calhoun

February 26th, 2009
1:21 pm

Jim, i’ve never lived in New York but I’ve visited many times. The people I’ve met there are, by and large, very nice, friendly, helpful people. That’s certainly more than I can say for this over-hyped cow town. Atlanta is full of the pretentious and ephemeral. It picks up on a trend from New York, tries to emulate it (usually badly and hokily) and pretends it’s on equal standing with New York. It isn’t! Atlanta is a town full of hicks, transplanted failures, natives who now hate it, bimbos, bozos, fruit merchants and neanderthalic twits. As for cuisine, most of these morons think of french toast as a culinary delight.

Right On Time

February 26th, 2009
1:40 pm


“…natives who now hate it…” is exactly right. There was a time when the Atlanta and metro areas were nice places to live and raise a family. Then, we were “fortunate” enough to be infused with transplants from every state, borough and country on this green earth. They were and are determined to bring “culture” to our little town. You now see the result.

As for a fine meal, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I hate Ruth Criss but really enjoy Stoney River. That does not mean RC is swill. And, yes, I’m aware most serious food critics would not set foot in SRG.

We are glad to have you and you are welcome to stay. However, we have never really appreciated being told how bad off we are and how much we need y’all.


February 26th, 2009
2:46 pm

I still prefer Old Hickory House. New Yorkers can brag about their pizzas but they can’t come close with BBQ and Brunswick stew. Most of these “chefs” fool around with food too much, anyway. Cornbread with sugar and sage? Gimme a break!! Leave that stuff in NY.

Algonquin J. Calhoun

February 26th, 2009
2:48 pm

I didn’t grow up here but I’ve lived here thirty-one years. I loved living here for a long time but not so much in recent years. If real estate ever elevates from the gutter, I’m going to sell and leave. The area is filled with rejects from other places now and it’s intolerable. Think I’m exaggerating? Watch any newscast any day.


February 26th, 2009
2:55 pm

The Plaza has issues in general – the reviews of the Palm Court were so horrible that they had to close down to regroup. One criticism was about these awful boxy high-backed chairs, which are now sprinkled throughout the hotel – guess they couldn’t afford to throw them out!


February 26th, 2009
4:26 pm

I visited Joel when Mnsr. Antunes was still in residence, and I was underwhelmed, to say the least. I’ve had better meals at FAB, for less $$. With very few exceptions, I’ve found that chefs who start to believe their own hype quickly fade to mediocrity. NYC, having a plethora of fabulous restaurants, will not stand a mediocre celebrity chef for long (see, e.g., the drubbing Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant took afre it had been open a couple of months). It isn’t “kicking someone when they’re down” to simply point out the truth, and the truth is that Joel Antunes is simply overhyped for his actual abilities.


February 26th, 2009
4:32 pm

I’ve heard from several sources that the food at the Oak Room never really got into its super-luxurious groove. Not only was the timing horrible but the fit may have been awkward. Antunes certainly had experience at the super-high end, having been chef at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. But I remember interviewing him just after he opened Joël, and at the time he said he was looking forward to preparing a more casual, brasserie-style menu. It sounds funny now, but he then described his intent as something “between Bacchanalia and Bluepointe.” He has always had a gift for redefining rustic preparations — pastas, braises — in a refined context. His technique always shines in the context of his playfulness. From what I’ve read about the decor at the Oak Room, it wasn’t a very playful environment.


February 26th, 2009
4:39 pm

We in GA are not above a bit of self doubt now and then. Having lived in Manhatten and raised here,(Grady High)Atlanta is now a wonderful food city and can compete with any city, inculding NYC! And yes, most people in NYC are very nice, but don’t like BS or fools, and yes downtown Atlanta has gotten rude, but there are almost no Georgians living there. Dollar for dollar Atlanta eating is great, and Buford Hwy is the bomb.


February 26th, 2009
4:41 pm

Enter your comments here

Fat Man

February 26th, 2009
9:12 pm

Everyone who is bending over backwards to laud the praise of Joel has no credibility. The facts are simple:

a) He was fired.
b) The review gave zero stars—and it wasnt the only bad review.

So either all the food critics in questions dont know what they are talking about (unlikely) or those in priase of Joel dont know what they are talking about (seems likely).

I am fat.

Drew Belline

February 26th, 2009
10:26 pm

Joel Antunes is one of the most gifted chefs that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I think it is a disgrace that so many people take so much pleasure in anothers misfortune, and then not have the decency to put their name on their own blog. We should all hope that that such a gifted cook would return to Atlanta.

W.R. Slade

February 27th, 2009
2:03 am

Did he try to slip the Colonel a watered down Jack Daniels?


February 27th, 2009
9:17 am

“So either all the food critics in questions dont know what they are talking about (unlikely) or those in priase of Joel dont know what they are talking about (seems likely).”

And if I was a spelling and grammar critic I would give you 0 stars as well.

Fat Man people like you are the reason abortion is till legal.


February 27th, 2009
7:23 pm

So Joel’s replacement was announced today, it’s the Chef of Fishtail who also was poorly reviewed in the same article that gave the Oak Room 0 stars……………………….

Something tells me the Oak Room is managed by morons.

I think Cartman should manage it.

W.R. Slade

February 27th, 2009
9:15 pm

I’m telling all you morons out there it had nothing to do with the freaking food. I think he tried to give the Colonel a watered-down Jack Daniels. It aint got nothing to do with the freaking food. You mess with colonel and you are asking for it. The Colonel had been going to the Oak Room since his days with Lyndon.

The Rudy

March 1st, 2009
8:52 pm

Joel the restaurant is a hard place to acquire a job at they get atlantas best line cooks. I imagine Joel didn’t get to pick his own Staff at the Oak Room or worse could have been stuck with Union staff. Without a good staff even the best will fail. Joel has been and will always be a professional hero of mine as I continue to cook for all of you when you come to the restaurants I cook my heart out in.

Mike Owen

March 3rd, 2009
4:51 pm

Joel Antunes was a “train wreck waiting to happen”!! Chef Cyrille Holota, the current chef at Joel in Atlanta and the former sous-chef and Joel’s “right hand man” for the past 14 years, is and always has been the brains and talent behind the operation. There are countless rumors of Joel’s mean spirited behavior towards staff while at Joel’s in Atlanta resulting in a very high staff turnover there. Something happened in Atlanta. Joel did not just voluntarily leave his “namesake” restaurant, sell his home (in a bad economy), move to New York on a risky start-up venture. My guess is that he was fired from Joel’s in Atlanta (theft perhaps?). He was sure gone from the Atlanta scene in a hurry….almost overnight! Without Cyrille at his side (covering for the fact that Joel is an over-hyped “no talent”), the end was sure to come.