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Dennis Lee at Smokestack
Dennis Lee at Smokestack

Just as Magnolia Brewing Co. is battling bankruptcy, another change has hit the brewery’s two restaurants: Founding chef Dennis Lee is leaving the kitchens at both Smokestack and Magnolia Gastropub. According to Lee, who also helms the Namu Gaji stoves, his departure is due to differences in operational approach. “They’ve been going through certain changes, and I felt like it wasn’t in line with my idea of what should be happening,” he told Eater. “Moving forward, how to manage the business to address some operational issues and things like that.” He declined to provide specifics, though he did mention that he was leaving on “great” terms with owner Dave McLean. Lee will finish out his time with the restaurants through the end of the month and into early February.

After that, Lee will solely focus his time on Namu Gaji, which is opening two San Francisco restaurants, as well as one in Indonesia. The team is still waiting on permits for Namu Noodle in the Dogpatch and the still-unnamed project on Divisadero, so there’s no firm timeline yet on either project. Lee did say, though, that once permits come through on Divis, it will be a quick turnaround as there’s no buildout to do on the space.

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