Differences between the owners and the chef over the future direction of the Creole cuisine restaurant Roux in Laguna Beach resulted in its abrupt closure this week.
The restaurant will remain closed for at least another week and will reopen soon under the temporary stewardship of the space’s former occupant, Michael Leach, said one of Roux’s owners, Cindy Byrne.
Leach will reprise some of his favorite dishes from the menu of Café Zoolu, which closed in May 2016 when Leach and his wife retired.
Founding Roux chef Norm Theard sent a farewell resignation letter to his partners and also took a portion of the furnishings, Byrne said. “Walking into Roux Tuesday morning to find a large portion of the furniture and kitchen taken out in the night was to say the least, shocking,” she said.
Theard said he took only personal belongings, which he itemized and sent in a list to the owners in December. His email did not explain the reason for the split.
For the moment, Byrne said her focus is on assisting employees find new jobs while she and her husband Michael Byrne figure out the path forward. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from the locals in the last 48 hours. It means the world to us.”
Byrne, who with her husband Michael and Theard, spent more than a year transforming the location best-known for Leach’s baseball cut swordfish prepared three ways. Roux opened last August and proved hugely popular. “The entire ownership group is tremendously proud of what we accomplished in the development of a top-notch restaurant at Roux,” Byrne said.
Instead of Zoolu’s zebra-striped stools setting a visual cue, French quarter scrollwork and historical photos of New Orleans filled the walls of the tiny restaurant at 860 Glenneyre St., which when it opened hummed with zydeco tunes and the aroma of gumbo, étouffée, jambalaya and rice and red beans.
Theard infused the menu with authenticity, cooking with his mother’s Creole recipes.
Byrne said the owners intend to continue Creole cuisine at the location.