Less than ten minutes after walking into Ponsaty’s last week, I walked out. Something fishy was happening and it wasn’t the special Spanish Tuna dinner I had been looking forward to for over a month. Instead, I left the restaurant far hungrier than when I arrived. But, now, I was craving answers after ingesting a crudo thin story I had been fed by on-site staff.
Here’s what I was told:
- There had been a problem with the purveyor providing the product for the dinner, so the dinner had been cancelled at the last minute.
- French Master Chef Patrick Ponsaty was on vacation.
- A note had been put on my reservation that said, “Do not call Sheen.”
I was puzzled for several reasons:
- I had never left instructions for this restaurant or any other not to contact me.
- This dinner was Chef Patrick’s baby. When I first had this tuna a couple of months ago, he couldn’t possibly have presented it to me with any more pride and care. Why would he plan a vacation at the same time?
- Patrick was standing next to me the previous week at his paella party when I made the reservation for the dinner.
Here’s what I’ve since learned:
- A new president has been appointed at the Grand Group, which owns Ponsaty’s.
- The new president is reported to be the past owner of now shuttered Intertwined Bistro in Escondido.
- Chef Alain Delahaye, Executive Chef of Ponsaty’s, was released the previous Sunday without notice.
- A substitute chef was in place the next day, Monday, Chef Patrick’s day off.
- The purveyor delivered the “special ordered” tuna last week, but it was refused by the substitute chef.
- While organic, local provisions are usually sourced from places like Connelly Gardens in Ramona, a large scale distributor was spotted at Ponsaty’s this week.
- Corporate Chef Patrick Ponsaty was placed on involuntary “leave” after expressing his opinion on the way matters regarding personnel, concept, and food sourcing were being handled.
- Chef Ponsaty’s status with the Grand Group and whether his name will remain on the Rancho Santa Fe location are unclear at this time.
What might happen to the Grand Group and the restaurant without the moniker and appeal of Ponsaty? How could it even matter? Ponsaty’s, for any of us who know the man, his provenance, and his ability, has always been about the French Master Chef who lent his name to it.
Is this another case of a restaurant owner/group hiring an accomplished chef/team to establish their new restaurant, menu, and concept in the market only to unceremoniously dump them and the payroll that accompanies such talent in favor of cost conscious, commodotized dining? I don’t know, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
One thing I’m certain about, if this thing keeps going the direction it looks like it’s heading – the duck at this or any of Grand Group’s locations may no longer be the thing of legend that I enjoyed under Chef Patrick’s tenure. The only thing I’m wondering is where I’ll have to go to enjoy his food now.
Request for comment to management of the Grand Group has not been responded to. Have a great week and Cheers, my friends!
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