Jardiniere, which opened in a far different Civic Center back in 1997, is calling it quits next month as chef-owner Traci Des Jardins says she's "tired of fine dining."
The comment was given to the New York Times' Kim Severson who reported the news Monday after speaking on the phone with Des Jardins, and the restaurant subsequently put out a statement on the closure.
"The restaurant is pretty healthy, but it's not thriving," Des Jardins said to the Times. And she added, "I’m ready to put it to rest."
Des Jardins, who also owns and runs five other restaurants and a bar in San Francisco, says she had thought about various ways to update the stalwart, pre-ballet/symphony restaurant, but decided in the end that she was done with her flagship and would rather shift her focus to Mexican food. (She already runs Mijita, a casual taqueria at the Ferry Building, that she has talked about expanding in years' past, and Arguello, a more sit-down Mexican spot in the Presidio.)
In her emailed statement to SFist, Des Jardins writes:
We have watched the restaurant business grow and change. Once guided by handwritten books with names and times and the memory of brilliant front of house people, to an industry driven by computerized systems, social media and influencers, consumer reviews and countless apps helping the public to navigate the growing sea of restaurant possibilities. We have contemplated many variations on how we might adapt to these inevitable changes in consumers taste however, instead of making a drastic change, we’ve decided to close Jardinière on April 27th, 2019.
Des Jardins is nationally known in recent years for appearances on the Food Network, where she beat Mario Batali on Iron Chef back in 2005, and later appeared on the third season of Top Chef Masters, where she ended up being a runner-up, in 2011.
Her fame in San Francisco began when she was the opening executive chef of splashy downtown restaurant Rubicon (in the space where Wayfare Tavern now sits) in the 1990s. She hired Elizabeth Falkner as her pastry chef, and also hired several other chefs who would go on to have their own local empires, like Chris Cosentino and Richard Reddington.
Her longtime friend and fellow Top Chef Masters competitor Mary Sue Milliken tells the Times that Des Jardins was something of a pioneer in the American fine dining world. "Traci was one of the very first intensely serious woman chefs who had a super-solid French background and stayed the course to compete on that level," Milliken said to the Times. "In those days, you had to have your own place and call the shots in order to control the environment."
Though Jardiniere will be saying goodbye — and opening up some VERY prime restaurant real estate — on April 27, Des Jardins will continue to own and operate Public House at Oracle Park, Mijita, Arguello, The Commissary, Transit, and School Night, a pisco-focused bar that opened in Potrero Hill last year in collaboration with The Pearl.