While some succeed at making lemonade from lemons, squeezing something good from a bad situation, the owners of the Creole restaurant Roux in Laguna Beach took that notion to a new level last week.
Confronted by a walk-in refrigerator stocked with perishable ingredients and the unexpected departure of its founding chef, owners Michael and Cindy Byrne devised a plan to wrest some good from certain ruin.
“In my house, my mother would never let food go to waste,” Ms. Byrne explained.
With the help of a hastily put together flyer distributed among friends, about 200 people showed up at the tiny 35-seat restaurant Saturday night, Feb. 3, to devour Roux’s comestibles in trade for a contribution to the Laguna Beach Boys & Girls Club.
Chefs Terry Sheeran, Jimmy Brice, Ryan Adams and Michael Leech provided the volunteer manpower and creativity, preparing rounds of frogs legs, kale and chicken salads, crawfish, soft-shell crab and savory shrimp as well as dessert samplers.
Patrons donated $2,523 for the chance to stand at the open-kitchen counter as the chefs cooked and served a dozen portions of each dish and handed out small plates and take-out cartons over the glass.
“We were incredibly honored that they thought of our young people to be the beneficiaries of the fundraiser,” said club Executive Director Pam Estes. “Everyone here at the Boys & Girls Club is grateful that we are in such a caring and generous community. The folks at Roux truly understand the value and importance of investing in young people’s lives today to make the future brighter for us all!”
Roux’s founding chef Norm Theard quit unexpectedly last week in a disagreement with the Byrnes, who opened the restaurant to good notices last August after more than a year of renovations.
Theard said he lacked the support he needed from the owners. He departed with personal items that added French quarter ambience to the restaurant, including historical family photos of New Orleans.
Fans of Café Zoolu, which previously occupied the space, urged the Byrnes to woo Leech out of retirement.
“We’ve had offers and ideas we want to consider. Michael Leech would need a crew, etc., so I’m not sure if we can do a quick start up with him for six weeks. We need a few days to review all the options,” Byrne said.