ROUX Creole, the phenomenal new restaurant in Laguna Beach, has just lost its founding Chef, Norm Theard, due to “irreconcilable difficulties” between Theard and investors. Theard resigned yesterday (Tuesday), citing “lack of support and continuous negativity from the owners, causing significant and overwhelming undue stress.”
Today (Wednesday), ROUX partner Michael Byrne, announced that the ROUX space will be temporarily closed and that a “new concept” restaurant hopes to be re-opening soon. The remaining partners of the LLC-based entity, Laguna Eats, removed ROUX Sous Chef Tyler Nix today. Tyler, already a very experienced sous chef, was hired and trained by Chef Theard, working side-by-side with the Chef from their opening day.
The one-two punch is a significant loss to Laguna Beach.
A rousing success in the dead of winter
Chef Theard, better known nationally as the highly-acclaimed “Creole Chef,” left his L.A. catering business to begin the 40-seat restaurant, ROUX Creole, here in Laguna Beach. After 14 months of extensive kitchen and dining room renovation, ROUX Creole opened its doors in the waning days of summer on August 22nd, 2017.
From its first day, ROUX was an immediate and rocking success with Chef Norm cooking authentic Creole recipes passed down in his family for generations. The renovated space was a warm and sultry French Quarter beauty, from its New Orleans crafted iron accents to framed family photos on the walls and a friendly, inviting welcome from every staff member crossing your path.
Now, the family photos are gone, just bits of hook and wires hanging sadly from the walls. The family recipes – as well as the spice blends used with each dish – were proprietary to Chef Norm, leaving the popular restaurant with only a memory of the delectable catfish, crawfish étouffée, Shrimp Yvonne (named after his mother), and more.
“I really struggled against the thought of resigning and leaving ROUX – not because of my own money investment or time invested – but because we’ve created such a great family of employees, all of whom are counting on their paychecks, said Chef Theard. “I knew that if I were to leave, my employees might have to struggle with this possible closure.
“But, although we were profitable from our first month of operation, and, although we all loved our jobs and loved coming to work, I just couldn’t continue in the business relationship with my financial partners. It was a daily battle that took its toll on me,” he said.
“The most authentic Creole food outside of the French Quarter”
Greg and Terri Smith, two Laguna Beach locals who seek out “foodie experiences” around the country, became ROUX fans from its first week. Greg, known as a rare “Duke” on Yelp for his vast numbers of visits to favorite restaurants, clocked more than 15 visits to ROUX.
“ROUX’s entire concept and food is as authentic French Quarter as you’re going to get,” Greg said. “The friendliness of the staff and chefs, the open kitchen concept that allowed you to chat and interact with the chefs, and the passion Chef Norm had for creating this incredibly authentic Creole food … well, you just don’t get that anywhere outside of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
“Chef Norm could open ROUX right in the French Quarter and I’ve no doubt that his restaurant would easily be the most popular one in very short order,” added Smith. “He’s really that good at what he does.”
“#1 Restaurant in L.A.” accolades
ROUX performed the impossible by gaining regional and national acclaim in just 4 short months, and filling the restaurant with bustling, adoring crowds during Laguna’s quietest winter weeks.
A rare and unique cuisine, ROUX Chef Norm Theard put his reputation on the line with food critics far and wide, and they responded with unadulterated enthusiasm and respect. As 2017 wound to a close, the largest accolades began rolling in, including The #1 New Restaurant in Los Angeles 2017 by CBS News, the #2 New Restaurant 2017 by Orange County Register’s Brad Johnson, and OC Weekly’s Top Restaurants of 2017, to name a few.
While Chef Norm certainly appreciated the high-brow awards, he points to Laguna Beach locals and patrons who drove for miles to dine at ROUX as his greatest reward.
“I positively love the community of Laguna Beach and the way they welcomed me and the ROUX team with open arms, ” said Theard. “In ROUX’s short lifespan, we’ve enjoyed getting to know our diehard regulars and making new friends. I’m really looking forward to creating the next endeavor and – hopefully – serving the community of Laguna Beach again. I hope, more than anything, we can find the right place, the right time and the right investors to make this happen,” he added.
Says Greg Smith, “I can’t wait to find out what Chef Norm’s new endeavor will be. No matter where it is, I’ll be the first one in line.”
Stay tuned for more details from me on ROUX’s future in StuNewsLaguna.com this Friday morning. Feel free to send any comments or questions to Diane@LagunaBeachBest.com
Sounds sad. What on earth could the owners have done consistently to drive someone to abdicate like this?
Who are they and what are both sides of the story? Sounds like everybody loses in this deal. What a shame.
There are, indeed, two sides to every story, which I’m working on! As a food critic, and a champion of this amazing place, I had to report its closure while still trying to make all the contacts to get what I could of the story. You’ll hear more shortly! Thanks for chiming in.
Wow, I’m heart broken. The food was absolutely wonderful. I really enjoyed watching them prepare the meals with so much style and confidence.
Each Chef had their on style and the food was ALWAYS delicious.
God Speed Chef Norm💔
Roux was my new favorite restaurant ! So sad to hear this ! The food was delicious and the staff were very warm and friendly. Chef Norm will hopefully be doing something wonderful soon !!
Vicki, thanks for the lovely comments on ROUX. I hope somehow they see all these comments! It was a great restaurant, and I know that many are hoping that Chef Norm and his amazing staff can find a way to re-open down the road.
If everything was going right what on earth would owners have to be upset about? It’s very clear there is more to this story. I hope you give the other side a chance to to explain considering they are locals and reputable business owners in laguna.
Agreed, Meghan, the Brynes are great people and, obviously, successful business owners in town. I think the world of them, particularly Cindy as I’ve worked with her more closely these last couple of years. (She rocks.)
Yes, agreed – two sides to every story, especially in a situation like this. I broke the story because I had many, many concierge and readers calling me on Wednesday morning, asking me what was going on – apparently the remaining partners had begun canceling reservations without going into details as to why, so they were contacting me, figuring I might know as I work closely with the chefs in this town.
I was able to finally connect with the “other side” on Wednesday morning, and was able to post an updated article in StuNewsLaguna this morning (Fri) as well as in my blog. I’m sorry it took me a couple days to get back to you – I just wanted to get the updated articles in play, and it’s been an extremely busy couple of days!
I certainly hope the best for both parties. Cindy couldn’t have said it better when she noted that, “Laguna Beach has a big heart and we can all enjoy success in this special place.”
BUMMER! My office is next door and we’ve watched Norm work tirelessly to get the restaurant open. The food was amazing and we couldn’t have asked to have a nicer neighbor. Please let us know where you are headed next.
It IS a bummer! A very refreshing Chef for our Laguna Beach, and so glad you got to know him and his staff.
What a shame. I’m just glad we managed to sneak in under the wire and have another great experience there last weekend.
Gerry, Im so glad you were able to get in! If I had known it was coming down the pike, I would have eaten there every night of the week! I hope the Chef is able to put something together again soon!