Long-time Mozza chef Chad Colby, best known for his tomahawk pork chop, bistecca fiorentina and pig-based charcuteire, stunned the Los Angeles restaurant community Sunday when he announced he had converted to a radical vegetarian sect and was retiring from Chi Spacca.
Colby, who could wax poetic on the wonders of a pig for so long his listeners longed for a major earthquake, said he was relieved the world finally knows his true food loves - eggplants, yams and chick peas - and the burden of being "the macho meat cooker dude was finally off my pork shoulders."
An unidentified Oregon winemaker apparently indoctrinated Colby into "The Greens Templar", a 12th Century vegetarian and fruit sect founded during the Second Crusades. During the famed - and failed - "Siege of Damascus" in 1148, attackers had set up camp in the orchards west of the ancient city, but, legend has it, some fighters became so enamored with the dates, apricots and eggplants with local hummus that they gave up both lamb and the battle.
Nancy Silverton, Colby's boss, reacted with her usual style and calm when told he was leaving.
"Well, I understand totally anyone who has a intense love of vegetables, because so do I, " said Silverton, recently returned from a two week trip to Israel. "On my trip the most interesting dishes were vegetarian. I am already introducing my take on the best vegetable-based dishes at Pizzeria Mozza."
Former Chi Spacca manager Theresa Gluck said she has known of Colby's "vegetarian tendencies" for years, but kept it a secret "for the sake of Nancy and for the sake of the staff." Still, she said it was that very secret which made her leave Spacca more than a year ago.
"I just couldn't do it anymore," said Gluck, the general manager of HomeState. "It was soul sucking. Training the staff to believe he was the 'Willy Wonka of Meat'. Telling the guests. All the lies, iies, lies. I just couldn't lie anymore."
Some insiders at Chi Spacca, part of the Mozza Kingdom on Highland and Melrose, said one of the reasons behind Colby's departure was his fascination with the small batch jams and toasts famously served at Sqirl on Virgil Avenue in Silverlake..
"I really don't think Chad ever fully got over the magazine article that rated Jessica [Koslow] and Sqirl waaaay above Spacca," said Arthur Rubashov, professor emeritus of restaurant behavioral psychology at the University of Budapest. "It apparently was his "Darkness at Noon" moment.
Chi Spacca, which Mozza owners Silverton, Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali nurtured from Colby's then-fascination with cured meats, has grown into one of the most desirable tables in America. So much so that the United Kingdom's foremost restaurant critic, Sir Charles Dillingsworth, recently said "the only rival in the world to Spacca when it comes to a meat restaurant is "Il Gran Palazzo di Carne", the newly-opened joint venture of Mario Batali and Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
(To read more on the Cecchini Batali restaurant - http://krikorianwrites.com/blog/2015/4/13/dario-cecchini-and-mario-batali-to-open-carne-palace-restaurant-in-middle-of-atlantic
What was Silverton's take on Colby moving on?
"As for Chad, I wish him success," Silverton said. "Just one thing. Remind me again, though. Which one was he?"
Australian-born chef Curtis Stone, best known for having invented the saying "no worries", has privately indicated he would hire Colby, if the chef agrees to enter "Fuck Zucchini" a rehab program for vegetarians based in Vernon
Long time Chi Spacca fans were perplexed by the sudden news of the departure of Colby whose last night in front of the ovens will be Wednesday, June 3.
"This reminds me of when Arthur Koestler denounced communism after being an active party member for over 20 years," said a dejected Dan Perrelli, one of Spacca's most loyal customers. "You just can't trust anyone with talent."