Well that didn’t last long: Less than six months after the long-delayed but since-celebrated Standard Foods opened its doors near Raleigh’s Person Street, chef Scott Crawford is planning not only his exit at the restaurant but also the end of his partnership with developer and Standard owner John Holmes of Hobby Properties, which included a planned second restaurant. Crawford announced the decision to his staff Thursday afternoon. He will prepare his last menus and meals for the new Triangle food institution during the first week of May and plans to begin work on a new restaurant soon.
“Every decision in my career I’ve made like this is an emotional one. It’s bittersweet, every time,” Crawford says. “But I also think John has an incredible eye and sense of what the community is looking for in Standard Foods, and I think it will go on strong, healthy, and vibrant. And I’m excited for what I’m doing next.”
Standard is a sprawling, complex concept. Located in a revived strip mall that has anchored the renaissance of a commercial district just outside of downtown Raleigh, Standard Foods is an elegant restaurant of red Le Creuset dishes and unlimited material by night. During the day, it has aimed to be more approachable through a lunch service with a revolving prix fixe and a neighborhood market that specializes in affordable local produce and takeaway items such as soup, ice cream, and stock prepared by the Standard kitchen. Standard also featured a small rear farm, where Crawford’s team tested small batches of ingredients for new dishes. Led by Steve Goff, Standard’s butcher counter has emerged as one of the best and most ambitious in the Triangle.
Judging by appearances, this multifaceted plan seemed to be working, too. The restaurant was consistently booked from opening to closing, and its lunch service had started to pick up momentum. Standard nabbed a strong review from the INDY’s Emma Laperruque, four stars from The News & Observer’s Greg Cox, and a ream of other national and regional press clippings. In February, Crawford earned a James Beard Awards semifinalist nod for his work at Standard, his fourth such commendation.
“I was gushing today, talking to the team about what we accomplished in six months,” Crawford says. “The Beard thing was great, and the nice accolades are great. But what I’m most proud of is that we came together as a group of people that didn’t know each other and created something that Raleigh connected to emotionally. You could see it every single night.”
Though whispers late this week in Raleigh’s food community attributed the decision to differences in ultimate vision between Crawford and Holmes, the chef and the developer insist the split is not an acrimonious one. Initial plans had called for Standard Foods to open in the fall of 2014. Crawford would lead the kitchen as his new project with Holmes, Nash Tavern, was completed on Martin Street. But long delays at Standard threw that timetable off badly, so Nash Tavern, which Crawford would own, started to look like a distant prospect. And when the pair began to explore the space at 211 West Martin Street, Crawford says, they learned that the project might be prohibitively expensive because of necessary renovations.
“The intent was always for Scott to be at Standard until the Tavern project was ready. But with the delays, the Tavern project hasn’t even started. In our original timeline, the Tavern would have been open in a few months. The delay unfortunately threw our plans at the window, and he’s unfortunately ready to move on,” Holmes says. “In light of his departure, Nash Tavern is no longer on the table.”
Crawford can’t say exactly what he’s moving on to just yet, only that he will have the chance to create and own the “classic American tavern” he’s wanted to lead for so long. He also can’t say whether or not it will be in North Carolina.
As for Standard, the search for a new chef begins immediately. Crawford doesn’t know if he will be involved in the look for his replacement, but both he and Holmes seem confident the core of what they created will not change.
“Our mission hasn’t changed, which is to try to engage the community around local food,” says Holmes. “We’re going to work hard to continue to do that, and I’m sure whatever Scott is doing next will be great, too.”