Douglas Keane Talks Greatest Hits, Foie Gras, and the Closing of Cyrus

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Keane Photo: Courtesy of Cyrus

We're now in the final weeks of Cyrus, the Michelin two-star restaurant in Healdsburg opened by chef Douglas Keane and master maitre d' Nick Peyton in 2005. As you likely heard, the Cyrus team gave in after a protracted eviction fight with landlords Bill Foley and David Fink, owners of the Hotel Les Mars, and settled for an undisclosed sum to pack up and move on. Now the restaurant's last night in business will be October 28, and Grub Street spoke with Keane today about the final days, and what may be coming next after he and Peyton take some much-needed time off.

How is the "greatest hits" thing going? Are there any particular standout dishes people are responding to?

It's great! People are pretty receptive. About eighty percent of the menu is stuff we've done before. There's my Thai lobster that I opened with, and it's probably my most requested dish. Also the Billy Bi soup is always a favorite. And what's fun is that a lot of the cooks who just started here in the last year or two have never seen any of these dishes, because I haven't done them in a while.

You said before you and [business partner] Nick [Peyton] were relieved at the outcome. I assume some money changed hands. But are you sad to see the restaurant go?

Right now, no. I'm not sad. I'm excited about what the next venture is going to be. Most of all I'm just happy there's no more fighting. It's a great feeling to be at peace. There all as that stress and it just wasn't happy for anyone there for about a year.

Maybe there will be some sadness as we get closer, but really I'm not that much of an emotional guy. If there's a dog involved, or sick puppies, I might get a little emotional, but with this, you know, it's like a small thing. You move on.

It was really important for us to have time so that everyone could figure out where they were going next, and we've had three months so that's really nice.

Have you thought any further about what the two of you want to do next, besides take a vacation?

We've talked to a lot of people, entertained some offers, some of which sound good. And what it really comes down to is we both need to take a little time off, step away, and then make a decision. Get healthy, focus on ourselves, and then sift through whatever offers are still hanging out there.

Do you think you'll try to stay around Healdsburg?

I'd love to stay in Sonoma County. I live in Healdsburg and Nick lives in Santa Rosa. I just love living here, and as soon as I got here ten years ago I felt immediately at home. But nothing's out of the question.

We know you've been very vocal in your opposition to the foie gras ban. What's next in the foie gras fight?

We lost the injunction, which is kind of a bummer. I was kind of hoping to finish with some foie gras. It looks like there's going to be a trial or some sort of preliminary ruling in the next month. There's still a lot of momentum on our side. And it's just stupid not to have it.

I've been reading the legal articles and stuff, and this whole focus on the commerce clause, I don't think it's the right way to win. Because what happens is you end up winning on this argument about whether or not one state can sell their product in California, and not on how humanely or sustainably the product is made. It's like the recent amendment to the House farm bill that would overturn all of California's laws regulating food safety and animal cruelty in factory farming. I think if you talk to most chefs they'd say this isn't the right way to go about it. But we'll see.

And what's happening the last day at Cyrus?

October 28 is the last day we have reservations for, and the 29th we're doing a friends and family farewell. My wife and I are going to New Orleans for three days right after we close because I've never really been there. I've only been for events, just quick in-and-out, so we're going to go play for a bit.


Earlier: Cyrus in Healdsburg Closing This Fall; Hotel Landlords Win
Nick Peyton, Maître d at Cyrus, Knows How to Handle Drunks