Rumors started coming my way on Monday that Mike McConnell, the Caffe Vita/Via Trib empire builder, had abruptly pushed Scott and Tanya Emerick out of Crémant, the much-raved-about French bistro in Madrona they founded.
Soon after, Nancy Leson over at the Times wrote up a blog post interviewing McConnell about the chef change; McConnell talked up all the changes he was making to save a restaurant he loved. When the blog post appeared in print, calling McConnell the restaurant's "patron saint," a couple of local chefs wrote comments taking sharp issue with his beatification.
I've been unable to contact the Emericks for comment, and McConnell hasn't returned my call, but I finally got in touch with Matt Janke (famous for Matt's in the Market), longtime friend of the Emericks who worked as a Wednesday-night bartender until early December. He refused to speculate on backdoor dealings and ownership percentages, but could confirm that the truth was somewhere between the gracious and the nasty:
Scotty and Tanya
were locked out of the restaurant a couple of days before Christmas.
Crémant had been slow and hurting, and Mike and his team were coming in to do smart things to cover costs,
pricing, labor. Having been in Scotty's position, I know
it's hard to turn your own baby
around, but if you hire a good nanny to come in you can do it. Around Monday of the big snow, Scotty showed up
and the locks were changed and no one was there to explain it to him. The funny thing, he was forced to leave
but he was willing to leave -- it was just a humiliating way to happen.
And, by the way, since Janke left Matt's in the Market, he's been keeping busy with a bunch of projects that include catering, caring for his seven-month-old son, working in the wine department at DeLaurenti, and consulting. In fact, he says that he's moving forward on a full-service restaurant with a client that is currently evaluating a number of locations and may open in the spring.