Max MacKissock on exiting the Squeaky Bean: "It's 1,000 percent my decision"
Early this morning, I got word that the Squeaky Bean, easily one of the most talked about -- and vaunted -- restaurants in Denver, would soon become a restaurant that was about to undergo some changes. And these weren't small, insignificant changes; they were major changes.
- The Squeaky Bean's Crickett Burns tapped as the kitchen manager at the Truffle Table
- An exclusive first look of the new Squeaky Bean
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The fluctuations, however, actually started several months ago, when Crickett Burns, who had cooked alongside executive chef Max MacKissock for eight years, most of them at the former Squeaky Bean, was leaving her post to command the kitchen at the Truffle Table; in late July, barman and Westword's regular Ask a Bartender columnist Sean Kenyon, who also co-owns Williams & Graham, stepped away from his stick behind the Squeaky Bean's bar, he says, "to devote more time to Williams & Graham," which has been the recipient of too many awards to count. And just a few weeks ago, Nick Touch, Squeaky Bean's bar manager, left, too.
And now MacKissock, a brilliant chef, along with general manager Stephen Gallic -- one of the best front-of-the-house professionals in Denver -- are ending their tenure at the Squeaky Bean. "I gave my initial notice four or five months ago," says MacKissock, recalling that he told Johnny Ballen, who owns the Squeaky Bean, that "this isn't going to be my life; I don't want to be here forever." MacKissock didn't give Ballen a specific departure date -- and he's still not sure how much longer he'll be behind the burners -- but, he says, he made it clear to him that he was, in fact, leaving.
Then, two weeks ago, MacKissock reiterated that sentiment, telling Ballen that the time had come for him to hire another chef. "My job was never in jeopardy, nor was my performance," stresses MacKissock, who insists, in no uncertain terms, that his imminent departure is "1,000 percent my decision."
Not that it's an easy decision. "The hardest part is leaving behind a crew that's been the best crew, bar none, that I've ever worked with; they're all incredibly talented," says MacKissock. "From the time we opened this location to now, it's really come together, and I can't even begin to tell you how much I've learned from everyone."
Nonetheless, MacKissock isn't afraid to point out the truth behind his departure: "I'm just not happy," he admits. "I want to get out and pursue other ventures with a partner that has the same vision as I do -- a clear vision that makes me feel more comfortable."