Darnit—we hate it when this happens. In his review on newsstands now, our restaurant critic Patric Kuh awards three whopping stars to Craftbar, the new, lower-priced restaurant-within-a-restaurant at Craft in Century City. Late last week, however, we learned of the departure of Craft’s chef de cuisine Matthew Accarrino and pastry chef Catherine Schimenti, both of whom Patric particularly calls out for their work on the innovative Craftbar menu. And while we’re sure the new kitchen staff put in place by Craft executive chef Tom Colicchio will be able to handle the job, this puts us in a tricky spot. That menu was so fundamentally theirs, it’s hard to gauge whether what’s being served today will be representative of what Patric describes in his review. But hey—you just can’t predict these things. We can say that the price point is staying the same, and the overarching philosophies of Tom Colicchio, which drive the entire Craft franchise, are still intact. We wish the new team—which will be headed by chef de cuisine Anthony Zappola and pastry chef Shannon Swindle, both from Craft Dallas—the very best.
As for some rumors that the two chefs were forced out by Colicchio on a recent visit, Accarrino says otherwise: “The truth is, it’s just not that dramatic. It was a mutual thing. Both Tom and I had thought about it separately, I think, and then we talked about it together. It was cordial and friendly—not a huge negative thing for [Tom] or us. … Working under a big-name chef, it’s hard to spread your wings and do it in a way that has integrity. If I decide I want to look for new work, how do you do that while still working for someone? Oftentimes, you just have to leave.”
OK, but does it seem a little fishy that both Schimenti and Accarrino left within weeks of each other? You bet. We were unable to reach Schimenti for comment, but Accarrino explains, “We came to Tom [Colicchio] together from Thomas Keller—he knows that. We both put a lot of work into that restaurant. We had an incredible opportunity, and we both gained Tom’s trust and respect. Tom has a lot of respect for me as a chef. ”
In his corporate-sounding statement to us, Colicchio pretty much agrees: “Matt and Cat did a wonderful job opening Craft Los Angeles in their year and a half there. I wish them nothing but the best in their future endeavors, and I look forward to introducing L.A. to our new chefs.”
When we talked to Accarrino, he was doing, well, exactly what you’d hope someone who just left their job would be doing—partying it up in Vegas. But don’t worry, his sights are still squarely set on Los Angeles. “I want to stay in L.A. The question now is, do I open my own place or find a business partner?” Ain’t that the million-dollar question? But whatever he does, don’t be surprised if you see Schimenti close at hand. “I’d absolutely love to work with her again.”
Photograph by Edmund Barr