Just two years after taking on the leadership of Coi’s kitchen from chef-owner Daniel Patterson, executive chef Matthew Kirkley earned the restaurant its third, coveted Michelin star. In unexpected news, however, chef Kirkley had already left the kitchen when the stars were awarded.
For the past three months, Kirkley has been exclusively training for the prestigious international culinary competition, Bocuse d’Or, which is held every other year in Lyon, France. Last week Kirkley and commis Mimi Chen (formerly of Daniel), officially won the right to represent Team USA during a day-long competition at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas; now he’ll commence full-time training for the 2019 competition, which ultimately means he has to leave the restaurant. A representative for Coi confirms that Kirkley has “moved on.”
In the meantime, “The core of Coi’s culinary team remains the very same that was recently awarded those three Michelin stars,” the representative says. A new executive chef for the restaurant will be announced soon, according to the restaurant. In these cases, next in command is typically the chef de cuisine, who would take on the menu that Kirkley designed. At Coi, the chef de cuisine is Justin Mauz, previously chef of Dominique Crenn’s now-closed Antoinette in the Claremont Hotel.
Kirkley is already known for impeccable, classic French techniques like a signature dish of turbot covered in colorful “scales” made of root vegetables — exactly the type of skills required to compete in the very technical Bocuse d’Or. Earlier this year, the United States won the gold for the first time, and earned a silver in 2015, leaving big shoes to fill for Kirkley in his first time competing in what is known as the “culinary Olympics.”
An intimidating coterie of chef judges, including the likes of Thomas Keller, Roland Passot, and Daniel Boulud, oversaw the team USA selection, which took five hours and 35 minutes from start to finish. Now, winners will relocate to Napa, and train for an entire year with coaches and advisors. Eventually, the team travels to compete against 23 other teams from around the world.
As for Coi, there’s no official word on the direction it will take now that Kirkley is tied up in Bocuse training, besides basking in the sweet glow of three Michelin stars. Stay tuned for more details on Team USA’s progress, and the future of SF’s newest three-Michelin star recipient.
Update, November 18: Chef Kirkley officially addressed his departure via a statement, below: