George Mahe of St. Louis Magazine breaks what is, without a doubt, the biggest restaurant story of the year so far: Chef and co-owner Wes Johnson has departed Salt (4356 Lindell Boulevard; 314-932-5787), the restaurant that he opened in early 2011 to acclaim both local (Riverfront Times' "Best New Restaurant" last year) and national (a semifinalist nod in the the"Best New Restaurant" category of the James Beard Foundation's 2012 awards, a St. Louis first).
Dave Scott, another co-owner of Salt, declined comment when I reached the restaurant this afternoon. According to multiple reports, sous chef Josh Roland is now the executive chef.
I've reached out to Johnson for comment. After hinting vaguely at a new project to both Mahe and to Evan Benn of the Post-Dispatch, Johnson told Ligaya Figueras of Sauce that he and former culinary partner Brendan Noonan of Harvest (1059 South Big Bend Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-645-3522) were planning to open a small, seasonally focused restaurant called Fixe.
More as we learn it.
Update: (Tuesday, May 22, 1:20 p.m.) The Sauce report linked above mentions this, but today Johnson officially announced that he will be overseeing the menu at Cafe Pintxos (3407 Olive Street; 314-338-2500), the restaurant in the ground floor of Midtown's Hotel Ignacio.
Cafe Pintxos opened last year, offering tapas, including the grilled, skewered meats that gave the restaurant its name. At least, that was the theory, though as I discovered when I reviewed Cafe Pintxos, its namesake dish was rarely available. A few months later, Cafe Pintxos dropped the tapas angle entirely.
According to the release announcing Johnson's move, the new Cafe Pintxos will feature "an evolving menu that honors the traditions of tapas fare."