Rumors. Really awesome rumors have been circulating as of late regarding a group known as the Culinary Militia and one chef associated with Hopscotch in Fullerton. Like a game of Telephone, the facts have been stretched enough to where I asked the one person who could set the record straight. Was there a falling out? Stealing? Blackmail? Walkout? Cody Storts and I met over fish tacos to discuss what was going on.
Cody trusted me enough to want to share what's been happening for the last month or so. And that's what this is about. If you'd like to know how Tustin's Nieuport 17 factors into all of this, keep going. Otherwise, there's always my chef interview.
Rumor #1: Cody is no longer associated with Hopscotch. This is a fact. However, this was mutually agreed upon. The direction management was going no longer matched the long-term vision that Cody had. There would be an agreed upon transition, where Cody would (and did) assist in finding a replacement in the kitchen. Assisting with menu development at some of the owner's other properties already took him away from Hopscotch's kitchen most nights already. The team would leave recipes for the menu, plus the tools to request specific items as needed. Most of the kitchen was moving on at some point, but the plan was accelerated due to the next rumor.
Rumor #2: There was an exchange between kitchen staff and an owner, resulting in them being let go. Plus, the staff stole equipment belonging to Hopscotch. Yes and no. While Cody does confirm a "gnarly" incident, the Culinary Militia chose to walk out. Chef's explicit orders were to only take what belonged to them: knife sets, scales, tasting spoons, items they purchased personally, etc. Removal of anything that wasn't theirs was unacceptable. "If you take anything out of this building that isn't yours, I will prosecute you," was what was uttered that night. "Take what's yours; leave everything else." The crew packed up their items and left.
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Rumor #3: Management of Nieuport 17 plans to shut down the place and remodel, cleaning house in both the literal and employment sense. Storts and the Culinary Militia would take over duties. Some misinformation. While remodeling is on the agenda, Nieuport 17 will conduct it in phases to keep the kitchen running. The team has been in the kitchen for the last week, working with current chef Greg Moro on tweaking the existing menu in the best possible way. They've been going "back to basics", cracking open Julia Child cookbooks to perfect classic French sauces--a change from their stay at Hopscotch. The revised menu launches this week, and will likely undergo updates (escargot!) as Greg, Cody and the Militia get more comfortable.
Renovations for Nieuport's kitchen and dining areas begin next month and are expected to wrap up in early winter, introducing an upscale, castle-like theme for the iconic structure. The Barnstormer Bar? Retooled into an additional concept (like how Five Crowns converted their bar into SideDoor). In the meantime, I'm reminded that this change is a work in progress. Regulars will still see familiar faces in the dining room, yet will notice the most change on their plates.
That's the story Cody is sticking to. Anyone want to add to this? Throw it in the comments.