He’s the third chef to cycle through the poultry-centric restaurant in the past 18 months. Eatwell DC owner David Winer tells Eater that although the recent back-of-the-house activity has been “tumultuous,” the Bird is moving forward with an existing employee now in command.
“The kitchen crew is stable. The management team is stable,” Winer says. He notes that the current sous chef, an 11-year veteran of the Eatwell group who has worked at sibling restaurants Grillfish, Comissary, and now-defunct Merkado Kitchen, will remain in place until “we find a suitable replacement.”
Last summer, the Bird’s founding chef Michael Bonk handed the reins over to seasoned chef Tracy O’Grady. After her brief stint, Hackney took control until his separation from the group on May 7 — a split management says was its decision. Winer does not expect to make significant changes to the Bird’s offerings in the interim, as he estimates that the majority of the dishes from Bonk’s final menu remain in place.
“This move is not out of malice, necessarily, but the Bird and that restaurant group was not a good fit for me ... I can’t be managed by a front-of-house, not chef, oriented group,” Hackney says. “Now I’m doing something way more in my zone.”
That zone involves reconnecting with fellow Food Network alum McCoy to help with future pop-ups and “flip burgers all summer” at the budding Lucky Buns brand. Hackney says he phoned McCoy on May 7 — the restless restaurateur is currently traveling in the Amazon — and agreed to collaborate while McCoy continues on a research and development trek through Asia to explore new flavors.
Hackney has worked with McCoy before, having helped him open other restaurants. McCoy also helped him score a recent taping gig on Beat Bobby Flay; Hackney tells Eater the show (air date: TBD) features his Bangkok chicken — but wouldn’t disclose whether he defeated Flay.
Editor’s note: Eater attempted to reach out to the restaurant via email for this story yesterday, but the email was not delivered. This story has been updated to reflect management’s response to Hackney’s departure.