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Heroic Chef Saves The Mill From Fire During Pop-Up Dinner

The quick-thinking David Wilcox kept more than just a $4 toast slice from burning.

Cheryl Thompson

Menu planning, prep, saving the building from burning down: all in a night's work for chef David Wilcox, whose quick action likely prevented some serious damage in the kitchen at The Mill. Wilcox, formerly of Mill Valley Beerworks and Gjelina, was holding a "shrimp shack" pop-up at the Divisadero bakery known for its $4 $3.75 toast when, according to a tipster, the ceiling caught fire. "We had just ordered and were about to open up a bottle when everyone noticed that the ceiling was engulfed in flames," she writes. "Giant flames were completely engulfing the chimney of their oven; it was absolutely insane!" Seeing what was happening, Wilcox didn't hesitate: "Despite all the insanity of the situation, the chef jumped on the back of one of his staff members and climbed up on the top of the oven and probably saved the building," says the tipster. "I mean, I'm no expert on fire safety, but you should have seen the thing, it was truly incredible."

The building was quickly evacuated, and the Fire Department handled things from there. As it turns out, the culprit was the Mill's stock in trade: built-up flour that had accumulated in their flue, and combusted when exposed to flame. The diners' money was refunded and the pop-up was shut down for the night, but the tipster was impressed nonetheless, dubbing Wilcox a "hero chef." Wilcox confirmed her account, though he demurred about the "hero" part: "[It] could have been worse. Not my first kitchen fire." Nonetheless, "I have the smokey lungs to show for it. [It] was a crazy night." The Mill reopened on Saturday and business continues as usual. "Small fire in the oven flue, could have been a lot worse," owner Josey Baker told Hoodline. "In the end, not a huge deal, though a solid scare."

Those who want to support Wilcox, who lost all his business for the evening, should consider attending his dinner at BN Ranch in Bolinas this Saturday, featuring guest chefs Cal Peternell, Charlie Hallowell, Evan Funke, and Samin Nosrat. Further proof that Wilcox is a righteous dude: all the proceeds are going to benefit Hurricane Odile disaster relief in Mexico.