Each day seems to bring new details in the story of The Mill Kitchen & Bar’s kitchen affairs. It all started when I reviewed the restaurant and learned that chef Marc Taft was no longer running the kitchen. Earlier this week I posted an interview with the restaurant’s new chef, Benjamin Castro.
Following media coverage of the chef transition, the following was posted on Facebook by Chicken & the Egg, Taft’s restaurant:
Because I am being asked by so many of you and I have received so many calls about recent press, I want to set the record straight for all of you that are loyal followers of Chicken and the Egg and allow me to have such a great job feeding you.
I am no longer associated with The Mill Kitchen and Bar. I chose to leave because the partners and I had philosophical differences about how to run a restaurant, treat our employees and be true to who we say we are. A from scratch kitchen featuring local, sustainable food can not be run with frozen food nor should it be run with menu items that can be found in 1980’s chain restaurants. And no, I am not going to take short cuts and lie to my guests about the food sourcing. I left on my own before my reputation was tarnished. For the record, In addition to me leaving, they also lost their Chef de Cuisine, 2 Sous Chefs, Pastry Chef, Chef de Partie and Dining Room Manager. I wish them and their new chef the best of luck. However, I am disappointed that their new chef chose to spread negative untruths in the media today. It is bad form for a rookie chef (any chef for that matter) to speak to the press about another chef when they have never met them. That is bad form and a rookie mistake. Before casting stones please ensure at least someone in Atlanta has heard of you and you know the facts. And..while you are at it, don’t talk to the press about recipes that need to be fixed and staff that needs to be re-trained properly. You haven’t earned that right yet big boy. Chef Castro, I hope you learn from this mistake and focus on the guests you have left, your staff and your food.
In the meantime, I am going to stop wasting my time on people that are insignificant in my life and focus on the wonderful guests and staff I have at Chicken and the Egg.
Thanks again for everyone’s continued support and for those who encouraged me to speak out to set the record straight.
Following that post, I asked Taft to speak with me about his experience at The Mill. According to Taft, he was initially contracted as a consultant. Soon after starting, however, Scott and Randy McCray asked him to run the restaurant, alleviating the need to hire a general manager.
Taft said The McCrays offered him a partnership in the restaurant but he chose to delay making that decision until after he’d had a trial period of working with the brothers. He also commented that he soon became frustrated with interference in his kitchen, the owners tinkering with recipes, adding specials Taft hadn’t approved and even asking the cooks to order frozen product.
Between those issues and what Taft believed to be mismanagement of staff and the abuse of farmer connections, he decided that he “didn’t want my reputation to be associated with this.” He added, “The whole professional culinary team felt the same way. The entire team is gone.”
Taft said he wants to “take the high road in all of this” but that he doesn’t want “people assuming I walked into this restaurant and ruined it and left them high and dry.”
But that’s not the way Scott McCray sees it. When given an opportunity to respond to Taft’s comments, he said, “We appreciate everything he did for us. He came in and did a good job getting the restaurant going. I wish the best for him. He’s moving on and we’re moving on. We’re here to make people happy. We’re excited about where we are going.”
–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog