Beloved San Francisco chef and onetime James Beard winner Roland Passot has decided to close his 32-year-old Russian Hill restaurant La Folie on March 14 and go into semi-retirement.
The reasons for the closure aren't necessarily the familiar financial woes and changes in dining patterns that are often cited by local restaurateurs — and La Folie, after over three decades, had more than its share of loyal customers across the Bay Area and beyond. As Passot tells the Chronicle, the restaurant's lease was coming up for renewal, and that was partly a concern, but Passot is also turning 65 this year and he says, "It’s time to let the next generation do their thing."
At 32, and given its longstanding place on former Chronicle critic Michael Bauer's list of favorites — it was among a small group of Bay Area spots that held onto four-star ratings from the paper for many years — La Folie has seen the food scene in San Francisco transmogrify into something vastly different than when Passot first opened it in 1988. Passot was named a Rising Star chef by the James Beard Foundation in 1990, and La Folie quickly became one of the city's best known fine-dining destinations for the next couple of decades. In more recent years, the accolades had started to fall away. With Bauer's retirement Passot lost a very vocal fan, and La Folie fell off the Top 100 in its 2019 update by new critic Soleil Ho and the Chronicle food staff. The restaurant also lost its Michelin star five years ago, with the 2016 Michelin guide.
But along with Chez Panisse, Boulevard, and a very small group of acclaimed restaurants with three decades or more under the belts, La Folie was part of an elite club of local places that had weathered the changing moods and economic booms and busts of the Bay Area over several tumultuous decades. And the announcement comes barely a year after SF lost another beloved and stalwart restaurant, Jardiniere, which closed in April 2019 after 21 years in business.
A native of Lyon, France, Passot studied under Chef Jean Paul Lacombe before going to work for Pierre Orsi at his famed namesake restaurant in Lyon. He later relocated to Chicago and then Dallas where he opened the acclaimed French Room at the Adolphus hotel, before coming to San Francisco. In addition to the Rising Star honor, Passot was twice nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: West in 2006 and 2007.
Passot tells the Chronicle that he plans to become more active with the Left Bank restaurant group that he remains a partner in — with Left Bank Brasseries in Larkspur, Menlo Park and San Jose, Meso at Santana Row, and LB Steak in San Ramon and San Jose. But he will be closing the 11-year-old La Folie Lounge, next door to La Folie, as well.
The chef says he's also hoping to lead culinary tours through France, Italy, and Spain, and generally "enjoy life a little."
Passot and his wife Jamie announced the closure to press and staff on Monday, and stay tuned for announcements about final dinner events and such in the next month.