The saga of Standard Foods—the vaunted Raleigh restaurant that has gone from James Beard Award nominee to troubled Raleigh restaurant without a head chef in a matter of three months—continues apace. This time, Standard Foods will be closed for at least six weeks, according to owner John Holmes, while a still-unannounced new chef builds a new menu and staff.
“We’ve got someone that is going to take over the kitchen, and we’re going to take six weeks to get it all dialed in and hire new back-of-the house folks. It will be an entirely new approach to the menu,” says Holmes.
He plans to name the chef as early next week but will say that the chef is from North Carolina and is, in large part, tasked with creating a menu that feels less like high-end cuisine.
“We had hoped to remain open, but that wasn’t feasible,” he says. “We’re revamping, but we’re not closing.”
It has been a turbulent time for Holmes and Standard, which opened to great acclaim after more than a year of delays last September. In March, co-founder and outgoing chef, Scott Crawford, announced his exit. Head butcher Steve Goff followed suit with plans to open a food truck and, eventually, a restaurant of his own. And just last week, Crawford announced not only that he would open his own restaurant, Crawford & Son, this fall only a few hundred yards from Standard but that he was taking Standard pastry chef Krystle Swenson, chef de cuisine Bret Edlund, and manager Anthony Guerra with him.
Those changes made it impossible for Standard’s seamless transition and will, according to Holmes, mean most of the staff has to be rehired in the coming month.
“The reason that we stayed open was to try and bridge the gap between Scott’s departure and the new chef’s arrival, but it didn’t work out,” Holmes says. “I don’t take lightly to the responsibility I have to everyone in that restaurant, but if we’re closed for six weeks, we can’t keep everyone. They have to look after their own interests.”
Standard isn’t shuttering entirely: Next week, Holmes plans to announce a series of weekend pop-up dinners to keep the kitchen active. And the neighboring grocery store will maintain its routine hours, while the butcher counter will offer a rotating selection of four sandwiches during lunch. The ideal of creating a community grocery and restaurant, after all, hasn’t changed.
“The original intent of Standard Foods was to be a neighborhood restaurant and to service Oakwood and Mordecai and tie together everything that’s happening in that area. But there was a perception that maybe it was a high-end place, and maybe that was deserved,” he says. “We’re looking at creating a menu that’s accessible to everyone in the area.”
As for his former partner’s announcement of a new spot but blocks away, Holmes has little to say.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” he admits, laughing. “That speaks enough for itself.”