Bernal Heights fine-dining gem Marlena has lost the husband-and-wife chef team who took the three-year-old restaurant to Michelin-star status in its first year in business, despite opening at the height of a pandemic.
It was a curious development last month when we learned that chefs David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher were linked to a new project in Japantown/Lower Pac Heights — taking over the space that continues to be operated by Gardenias. They are attached to that project along with Ryan Cole of Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (Trestle, The Madrigal, The Vault Steakhouse), who also helped get Marlena open as well.
Now, as Eater first reported, the Fishers have left the building, so to speak, at Marlena, putting out a statement on Instagram saying that they have parted ways with the restaurant's owner due to a conflict of vision.
"When we opened Marlena nearly three years ago, we started serving chicken sandwiches in picnic baskets for takeout during the pandemic," they write. "We poured our hearts, souls, and resources into the restaurant as if it were our own, even naming Marlena as an homage to David's late mother... Unfortunately we have been in a conflict with the owner of Marlena over different visions of hospitality and integrity, and as it has come to an impasse, our only option was to depart from the restaurant."
They go on to say they have "partnered with Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group to gain true ownership of a new restaurant that we are excited to share with you in the fall."
David Fisher recently told Eater that Marlena was "turning into this thing that we don’t want to be a part of anymore." And Eater notes that the restaurant's liquor license is in the name of Stephane Roulland and something called Bouillon LLC, and the Fishers never had an ownership stake.
There's no word on what's next for Marlena, we just know that the Fishers will pop up again in a few months at 1963 Sutter Street. The "doing business as" name on the liquor license transfer there is "7 Adams," but that may just be a placeholder, and the chefs are not yet sharing any details. Gardenias also has not said if it is closing or relocating.
David and Serena Chow Fisher met in New York while working at Pearl & Ash, and Serena also worked as pastry chef at the Michelin three-star Eleven Madison Park.