La Jolla’s The Hake had a major staff shake-up yesterday, with executive chef Aarti Sanghavi unexpectedly parting ways with the restaurant after being told the menu would need to be changed, she told Eater. Also departing were the sous chef and six other members of kitchen staff, who decided against taking part in the changes. Earlier this month, the restaurant’s head bartender and general manager left for other opportunities, too.
Sanghavi was tapped for The Hake’s menu redesign a year and a half ago, which coincided with the completion of a major revamp. “We tried hard to generate business, but it came to a point where they decided my menu wasn't working,” she said. “At the end of the day, I get that the changes are what some customers might want to eat, but the type of food they suggested is not what I saw myself doing for the long haul,” Sanghavi said.
Eater reached out to managing partner Ricardo Dondisch for official word and was told that the restaurant is pivoting back to its roots by bringing back old customer favorites, like tuna tostadas and shaved rib eye.
“Ever since the expansion and menu change, we've been hearing from our regulars that they miss this dish or that one, or the food is different to what it used to be. We are big fans of Aarti’s talent and cooking, but it wasn’t translating as well for our customers,” Dondisch said. He added that the kitchen and new menu will be overseen by chef-partners Federico Rigoletti and Roberto Craig, who operate the group’s other restaurants in Mexico City, until they can find new executive and sous chefs.
As for Sanghavi, she is taking time off while looking for her next gig, noting that she’ll be weighing going back on a cooking line versus other executive chef opportunities. She has her eyes set on Little Italy/Downtown or North Park, where she thinks her cooking style—which she describes as creative and heavily spiced—will be better received.