Steve Halliday, managing partner of Ambria, weighs in on firing chef Jeremy Kittelson

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Lori Midson
Jeremy Kittelson, former exec chef of Ambria.
Last week, I broke the news that Jeremy Kittelson, the opening chef of Ambria, had been fired during the height of Denver Restaurant week -- one of the busiest weeks of the year and an incredibly risky (some would say incredibly stupid) time to boot your executive chef off the line. When I spoke with Kittelson, he stressed -- emphatically -- that he had been axed, and that his comrade of chefs, many of whom had cooked alongside Kittelson in the past, at Restaurant Avondale, in Vail, had subsequently walked out the door, not because Kittelson coaxed them, but of their own accord. "I was fired, and my staff, all of whom have worked with me in the past, left because they wanted to," he told me.

But while Steve Halliday, the managing partner of Ambria, where Kittelson is also a minority owner, agrees that Kittelson was terminated, he insists that the chef knew that his time at Ambria was limited.

"Four weeks ago, we had a conversation with Jeremy about the environment at Ambria, which was extremely toxic, and we told him that things needed to improve and change -- that we'd put a whole lot of press behind Jeremy Kittelson, and that things weren't going the way we'd envisioned," says Halliday. "Let's just say that, among other things, I've never been involved in a restaurant where the back of the house wouldn't talk to the front of the house -- there were too many walls up and too much tension -- and we just couldn't connect. The teamwork wasn't there," Halliday asserts.

A week later, maintains Halliday, he, Kittelson and another managing partner sat down once again to discuss Kittlelson's tenure at Ambria, and, according to Halliday, it was clear to both parties that the honeymoon was over. "Somewhere in that conversation, Jeremy made the decision to leave, and we let him know, flat out, that we were interviewing for another executive chef -- that we'd put an advertisement on Craigslist," says Halliday, adding that he and Kittelson mutually agreed that when he when he exited, his cooks -- those who had previously worked with him -- would be leaving, too. "He said that when he left, he was going to take the cooks who had followed him down the mountain from Vail, and we agreed to that," contends Halliday.

Location Info

Ambria - CLOSED

1201 16th St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


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29 comments
Bear
Bear

I worked for Jeremy for two years, as well as with Pete, the fired sous chef, and the rest of the cooks who followed them out the door, at Avondale.  Jeremy is a great chef, teacher, and leader.  If he wasn't none of these people would have bothered to work for him at Ambria and I wouldn't have been trying to move back to Colorado to work for him when Ambria opened.  

It is what it is with this situation, but to say the man can't lead a bridage is just plan silly.

sherry Luciano
sherry Luciano

This really bothered me. Firing Jeremy Kittelson at the Cheese Cake Factory. (I don't know him) I had read an article of Chef and Tell from Westword from the February 23th issue. I pulled the article and knew I wanted to try this restaurant. There was just something about this chef that I knew I wanted to try his food. I think the way he was let go just wasn't handled correctly.I hope he finds a new position quickly in Denver and this time it's a good fit.

Sherry

sunny b
sunny b

Go to Ambria and decide for yourself! Please. Denver needsall the independent restaurants we can dream up to fight the chain takeover-especially on the 16th Street Mall. Give this chef a break.Kittleson knew full well he was talking to a BLOGGER, regardless of whocontacted who. But he wanted to let people know that he did not quit. (Not surewhy he made this decision b/c if you read Chef and Tell, this puts Kittlesonparting on bad terms on both of his last two jobs out there in writing, but itwas his decision to make to talk with Midson.)  Give Midson a break. She is a blogger. This is a story. Andany good blogger/writer would try to get the other side of the story from therestaurant. Give Holliday a break. He sounded pretty high on Kittleson,ironically, but his responsibility is keeping the restaurant going. Contrary towhat some have written here, I didn’t see any specifics of why they let thechef go. Is it that hard to believe a great creative person is not that greatat management or owner functions? Give the new chef a break. Let him have achance to cook for you.

So, go to Ambria and try it for yourself. Choose to go backbased on your own observations of the service, the food, and the ambiance. Keepsupporting the independents!

MV77
MV77

Ate at Ambria Friday after Kittleson was fired...food was horrible, wait staff was clearly STRESSIN. I thought maybe it had something to do with this situation. In any case, the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

Trudy
Trudy

Why would Westword and Lori allow Steve Halliday to publicize a bunch of lies? If Kittleson was to blame for breach between back and front of house (word on the street is that the FOH management aka Manzo is responsible for that breakdown) why did wait staff and bartenders walk out with Kittleson, none of who worked with him in Avon? Why does Halliday fire his chef and then put it out there that it was a negotiated agreed to thing? Total bullshit. He fired Kittleson and he doesn't have the cajones to admit he did such a boneheaded thing. Forget Ambria, Westword. Ambria will be limiting its advertising on craigslist, where they get their replacement chefs for their plans to turn Ambria into another 16th St Mall sandwich/drinks/chain dive. As if we need another one of them! See ya Ambria! It was a good but short ride you had! 

belle
belle

Rich Manzo, Ambria's GM, is a complete liability to the restaurant which will eventually lead to Ambria's doors closing!

Rowan
Rowan

I wonder how Steve Holliday and Lori Midson would like to get fired and have their boss air their subjective reasons in public? Can't imagine why Midson would let Holliday use Westword to justify himself. Can't imagine why Holliday and his management and investors would feel a need to do so. Very unprofessional and uncool. No Ambria for me. It seems Ambria and Westword may have opened themselves to a lawsuit. I thought personnel matters are confidential. It seems Ambria needs new management rather than a new chef.

danlam
danlam

I find it rather unprofessional to bring up someones getting fired to the press. Maybe he did have to go, and maybe he didn't. For this guy to say the Chef was a bad businessman is kind of contradictive as going to the press to say why you fired someone is not so classy nor businessman like. This will be one resturaunt I am sure to avoid. As far as the common point being made in this thread, I too agree. There are always more sides to one story and I hope the Chef as well as his line do not suffer because of one person disliking them and taking it public.

Alboy
Alboy

Gabe is the man. Im sad we lost him at Oceanaire, but he deserves a place where he can do what he does the best...be the shit!

Roman66588
Roman66588

Gabe is a great chef and an amazing person. He will succeed here.

Jared
Jared

I'm really excited to know Gabe landed the Chef position at Ambria! He is extremely hard working and humble. Ambria has chosen a great person to take over the role.

PCR
PCR

Gabe is a great guy and a great chef! He will rock it! Worked w him years ago at MirepoixNice job, bud

Ebethcheese
Ebethcheese

Everyone knows, there are always two sides to every story.  Lori - thanks so much for writing this!

Chefzoso
Chefzoso

You don't tell your chef you want him to change his approach because "your putting a lot of press behind" him. You do it because you give hime/her a paycheck. That quote sounds fishy and contrived and spoken by a douche who thinks press is more important than other things,....

sunny b
sunny b

So I took this  advice and went to Ambria. It was restaurant week and they were completely full We were able to sit at the huge community table and still have dinner. The staff was impressive, we had a server, a bartender, a bus boy and a manager all at appropriate tiimes come to our talbe. The highlights-- my 3 courses and paired wines were all excellent. They have 1/2 glasses whicch were perfect for this. For my friends the highlight was definitely the ambiance. They loved the lights, the community table and the general vibe. Also the wine. the lowlights -- they initially brought the wrong glass of wine but left it and then brought the correct order. So this was okay with us! They ran out of one dessert, but again turned out okay as they gave us glass of dessert wine for the trouble. The three of us will definitely go back. It's hard to have good service during restaurant week and probably harder after what is going on but we were really impressed.

Destouches
Destouches

If the reviews on Opentable since the changing of the guard are any indication, I'd say save your money. These guys will be out on their asses in a month. Lori Midson is a parasite.

belle
belle

Exactly! MGMT is the problem here

Davelovelace
Davelovelace

 Let us not forget it was the chef that went to the press first; almost forcing the owner's hand here.

Jahweluv13
Jahweluv13

The one side were missing is the truth......3 sides to every story. These things should be kept in house, no reason to air grievances to the public

Jameister
Jameister

You guys who obviously worked with this chef and are writing here are cruel. It is easy to see why he keeps getting fired surrounding himself with viscious 'supporters'. What future employer would want him and his vindictive 'team' in their restaurant?

danlam
danlam

Yeah but even still there is no justification in that. i,e: If I was to go to the press about my employer for whatever reason and be fired over it, I am 100% certain without a doubt that they would not go back to the press and give some reason for my being fired and hang me out to dry in public regardless of what I said. If anything they would probably comment only on whatever I said about them and that is it. Everything else would be "no comment" or "that is confidential information". I am not saying the Chef was a good guy and should have never been fired and I am not saying he wasn't a complete jerk either, but the business and it's owners should have been much more level about the whole thing. Set a good example type stuff you know? 

Rowan
Rowan

Did the chef go to the press or the press go to the chef? I believe Midson's original article suggests the latter.

Whats the point?
Whats the point?

Agreed. All these 'news' are just to get people gossiping and speculating. I guess Westword sells on that.

Tj
Tj

Have to agree. Usually on the side of labor - but after reading the posts here, this chef and his friends would be bad news anywhere. Showing their true spots. Come on people, get over it , move on, and show some much needed class. It doesn't matter how it happened, it matters how you handle it. Even Peyton Manning was fired.

...
...

I can say this chef is a great guy, and there was never ANY tension with him and any of the staff.  The tension and unwillingness to communicate is with the managment.

Doughboy
Doughboy

What, do you live in some employment fairyland where everyone is kind and honest?  If you shit on employer in the press, I would expect that they will dump on you in return, so you'd better be prepared.  The employer is within its rights to respond to or correct false statements by their former employee and can speak about normally confidential employment matters if the employee is the first one to open the door. If you want to keep your firing private, I suggest you shut your piehole.   

Rowan
Rowan

PR for the chef was pr for Ambria. So if you're right that means Ambria sent its pr man to Westword to publicize the firing. Interesting.

Scotchandsoda
Scotchandsoda

you are wrong. the person who does pr for the chef went to midson.

 

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