More than six months after L20 closed to become Intro, its acclaimed former executive chef is leaving Lettuce Entertain You altogether. LEYE reps confirmed this morning that chef Matthew Kirkley, one of the most talented chefs in town, is exiting the company "to pursue an opportunity in fine dining this fall." What that opportunity is is currently unknown.
When LEYE officially announced the shuttering of L20 in October 2014, which was a three-Michelin-starred restaurant under chef Laurent Gras and then two-Michelin-starred under Kirkley, company chairman and founder Rich Melman said he made the move in part to give Kirkley his own new project and that Kirkley would still be involved at Intro, despite the revolving chef concept. It appears that those plans are no longer on the table.
In a statement today, Melman says that "Matthew has not only been a great partner but he has blown me away with his talent, work ethic and caliber of knowledge. We will miss him greatly and I look forward to seeing him succeed in his next venture."
Kirkley: "I am deeply grateful for all of the opportunities and lessons that Rich Melman and Lettuce Entertain You has provided me with over the last five years. It is with a heavy heart that I leave an organization that has afforded me so much. I plan to remain a friend of both Rich and Lettuce Entertain You for years to come."
Kirkley became L20's executive chef in November 2011, taking over for Francis Brennan and playing a major part in the fine dining seafood restaurant's continued critical success following Gras' abrupt exit. He will remain a LEYE consultant through the end of the summer. Stay tuned for news on his next venture—it should be noteworthy, if his pedigree is any indication.