Tom Colicchio just called to talk about today's announcement that Jeff Harris is leaving Craft's kitchen to open a restaurant on Fitzhugh. Colicchio, who still controls Craft following that reworking of his deal with Hillwood in the spring of '09, made the decision himself to hire Tim Bevins as the eatery's fourth chef de cuisine during its run at the W in Victory Park. And, says the co-host of Top Chef, it was a no-brainer: Blevins is a Dallas native who found himself without work when Craft's Atlanta outpost shuttered due to the developer falling into foreclosure, and rather than lose him to another restaurant, Colicchio asked Bevins if he'd be interested in moving back to his hometown.
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"Jeff's been there a long time and wants to do his own thing," says Colicchio. "Tim was part of the opening team [in Dallas], and he's from Dallas. We moved him to Atlanta to be executive sous chef there, but he's moving back. We're not gonna miss a beat in Dallas. Jeff did a great job, and before him Tony [Zappola] did a great job, and before him Kevin [Maxey] did a great job."
Colicchio says it was an easy decision to go with Blevins, who'd been at The Mercury and Dragonfly among other locals before joining Craft and decamping for Atlanta. Matter of fact, he says, before Harris decided to go off and do his own thing, Blevins was this close to heading out to Craft's L.A. outpost. But when Harris turned in his pink slip, Blevins was moved home.
"My feeling is when people work for me as sous chefs and cooks, I know one day they want to be a chef, and either they go out and do it for somebody else, or do it for me," he says. "So when an opportunity opens up, before I go outside I'll talk to all the sous chefs, and I'll offer them the job first. I almost never go outside, which is why we can open multiple resaurants and they're all good. It's a farm team. It's like the Yankees, why they're always good."
And the timing in this case was particularly good: Colicchio will actually be in the Dallas Craft kitchen for at least four days during the week of the Super Bowl. Says Colicchio, he'll be able to "support" Bevins as he makes the transition. Not that he needs must of an assist: "He works his ass off."