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The Moss Room Shutters For Good; Phan Out, Foodservice Giant In

The California Academy of Sciences' troubled restaurant is dunzo.


The past three years have been challenging ones for The Moss Room, which opened in the then-new California Academy of Sciences back in 2008. Owned by Loretta Keller (Coco500), the restaurant earned three stars and Top 100 status from Bauer and boasted a packed house in its early days, but it began to falter when chef Justin Simoneaux and GM Zach Pacheco left to join Boxing Room in 2010. Keller dropped The Moss Room from her slate the next year, handing over the keys to Charles Phan, who already ran the Academy Cafe upstairs. The restaurant became a revolving door for chefs, with Justine Kelly (now consulting for Chino) and William Pilz (formerly of food truck Hapa SF) both coming and going, and now, as Inside Scoop reports, it's closing for good to become a private-events space. Hopefully the 40-foot high living moss wall and aquarium won't be casualties of the switch.

Taking the reins from Phan in the Academy Cafe and the forthcoming Terrace Cafe will be French foodservice giant Sodexo, which boasts operations in 80 countries and made nearly $9 billion in North America alone last year. Unsurprisingly, such a massive business has not been without controversy: it settled a $20 million lawsuit alleging it overcharged New York school districts in 2010, and Human Rights Watch found evidence that it suppressed employees' rights at the University of Washington in 2011 (students were arrested in subsequent protests). Nonetheless, the Academy of Sciences says that after vetting "over a dozen top-tier food service providers (large and small, local and national)," Sodexo was the best choice. "Visitors can be assured that Sodexo will adhere to the highest sustainability standards, supporting the Academy's Double LEED-Platinum status," including fair-trade coffee and tea, humanely raised meat, and Seafood Watch-approved fish.