When a chef posts a red image of a mushroom cloud to announce his departure from a current gig, you know the story has to be good. That was what Ernesto Uchimura posted on Instagram today to announce that he’s leaving Plan Check, the mini gastropub empire that he helped develop and open in 2012. Perhaps in this case the color red wasn’t for anger or ire; maybe it was for ketchup leather.
“It’s been an amazing five years at Plan Check, time to move on and evolve,” he exclaimed. “Big thanks to all the staff and customers that have come through over the years. Stay tuned…”
A photo posted by Ernesto Uchimura (@ketchupleather) on
What exactly happened—did he leave of his own volition or was it something else?—is yet to be seen. Both parties are toeing the line. “I can confirm I’m no longer at Plan Check but that’s as much as I will say regarding it for now,” Uchimura emailed us. “I am currently working on a few new concepts that I hope to launch in the near future.”
The chef was named one of Los Angeles magazine’s Chefs of the Year in 2012, when he introduced his most famous condiment, ketchup leather, and dashi cheese and warm cruller donuts to the world at the first Plan Check on Sawtelle. The former Umami Burger chef (he was there at the beginning helping Adam Fleischman with those early recipes) has a way with a patty and bun, but proved he could do so much more with things like pickles, baked crab dip, pot roast with bone marrow pie, and that damn fine smoky fried chicken.
“The idea was to do the most craveable food I could,” he said back then. “Everyone wants to try a new restaurant, but the key is to bring them back. I want to create familiar food while elevating it to keep myself as well as the customer interested. But I don’t want to be too gimmicky, either. Everything has to make sense and serve a purpose.”
His purpose, apparently, was to watch Plan Check grow from one small shop on Sawtelle to three, including the mega-restaurants on Fairfax and near downtown. A fourth, now sans Uchimura, is on the way.
Plan Check owner/founder Terry Heller says in a statement: “We wish Ernesto the very best on his future endeavors and are grateful for his tenure at Plan Check over the past four years. He is and will always be a part of the Plan Check family. We look forward to exciting times ahead as we grow and gear up to open our fourth location in Santa Monica later this year.”