Rumors are circulating that carefully calculated First & Hope has lost Shelley Cooper, the Downtown restaurant’s Southern-imported executive chef. Eater also reports that the restaurant had issues with a health inspection recently and also put a new consulting chef in the kitchen, following a fairly positive from S. Irene Virbila and a downright befuddling response from Jonathan Gold, who didn’t really believe in the food, but was making it his post-opera spot nonetheless. So what are the restaurant and its reps currently saying?
A First & Hope employee answering the phone didn’t deny or confirm the rumor, telling Eater that they just couldn’t talk about it, which probably means it was someone low on the information chain who knows nothing about the changes or…it’s just plain true. To add more fuel to the gossip, First & Hope’s PR rep claims a sous chef named Jenny was recently fired, and is now, in turn, raisin’ a ruckus, as they might say back in Cooper’s native Tennessee.
With this supper club’s imaginative comfort cuisine clearly being such an extension of the chef’s personality and vision, it’s very difficult to imagine First & Hope sticking to the down-home fine-dining theme with a completely new toque behind the stoves. For the sake of the porter cheddar mac and cheese, and considering the months it took for the restaurant to refine its voice and mission, let’s "hope" it’s not true.