Nfld. & Labrador

How the oil crash took down a St. John's restaurant

"Taking a risk to follow a dream ... you shouldn't regret that if it doesn't work out."

The Reluctant Chef is closing this weekend, and staff say the economy is to blame

The owner of the Reluctant Chef said closing the business was a hard decision to make. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

The cooks and waiters at the Reluctant Chef say they saw the subtle but surefire signs of a slowdown over time — busy seasons were less busy, fewer customers, and fewer orders for the elegant tasting menu that is the restaurant's specialty.

"You only see credit. Nobody's paying with cash or debit," says Mark Pardy, sommelier and operations manager.  

"A restaurant is just a microcosm of how much money people have to go out and spend."

Head chef Jeremiah Stafford finishes a dish in the restaurant's kitchen. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

This weekend, the Reluctant Chef is serving up its final plates. Owner Anthony Butt broke the news via social media late last month, giving customers a chance to squeeze in a last meal or use their gift cards.

No regrets

Butt started the the Reluctant Chef with just his credit card, but it grew into a top destination for foodies, and a star of the restaurant revolution in St. John's.

In the past year, the tables have turned and business has softened, but Butt isn't second guessing anything.

"There are things you regret in life," said Butt. "Taking a risk to follow a dream ... you shouldn't regret that if it doesn't work out."

CBC cameras got exclusive access to the Reluctant Chef during its final month of operation. The result is Reluctantly Closed — a short documentary that takes you inside the restaurant, and examines its closure in the context of the Newfoundland and Labrador economy.

As for Butt, he is leaving the door open to other food service businesses, such as a catering venture.

"But I'm really looking forward to a fresh start," he said.

"I think I'm starting to feel that today."


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