Chef Domenica Macchia quits Three Birds, heads to Beak’s Old Florida 

“Let me go,” Macchia said. “Let’s just be part of a community with great food.”

click to enlarge READY TO WORK: Macchia (seen here in her MJ's days) is bringing her food to Beak's. - ERIC SNIDER
  • ERIC SNIDER
  • READY TO WORK: Macchia (seen here in her MJ's days) is bringing her food to Beak's.

Domenica Macchia just wants to cook, have a couple drinks every now and then (she prefers bourbon), and take care of her five dogs.

The Best of the Bay-winning chef, whose resume includes stints at Bella Brava and the now-defunct MJ’s Martini & Tapas, Diner 437 and Shackleton’s Folly, was most recently the executive chef at Three Birds. But she gave two weeks’ notice there earlier this month. She had called in sick, she says, but was asked to come in anyway; owners Robin and Jack King believe she’d called out of work to seek alternative employment.

“Honestly, it was something that had been lying dormant in me for a while,” Macchia said Monday. “When they asked me to come in, when I never call out sick, something in me snapped.” She joked that she used to consider causing a kitchen “accident” (aka sliced finger, slip-and-fall, etc.) so she could finally get some time off.

Needless to say, the Kings were less than thrilled when they got the email from Macchia informing them of her decision to quit (read more here).

“We’re not happy, but Three Birds Tavern is,” Robin King said last week. “We’ll survive. We just had our biggest weekend since June this past weekend.”

Reacting to their chef’s departure, the Kings changed Macchia-roni to Wacky-roni on the menu. Macchia is also facing a possible $10,000 lawsuit for breaking her contract and violating a non-compete clause (which, according to King, forbids her from working at a competitor in Pinellas County through 2014). Dan Soronen, who worked with Macchia on the Shackleton’s Folly project, immediately scooped her up for his latest venture as soon-to-be owner of Beak’s Old Florida, the popular tavern and bar on Central Avenue.

“Jaime [Farquharson, current owner of Beak’s] built a great place, and I’m looking to finish what he started,” Soronen said. “I hired a chef and I intend to move on with business as usual.”

Soronen helped Macchia get a lawyer, which she’s hoping she won’t need. “Let me go,” Macchia said. “Let’s just be part of a community with great food."

And Macchia is already hard at work for Florida-centric Beak’s, which should debut her new (albeit limited) menu by the first week of November. “It’s going to be my personality with small plates and hearty foods,” Macchia said. “I am bringing brunch back, too. I want to have a Bloody Mary bar.”

She loves perfectly crispy fried foods, plenty of salt, and fresh crusty bread. “I want to take the simple stuff and make it great,” Macchia said. “And then just don’t fuck it up.” Beak’s will now allow everyone, not just 21 and up, into the restaurant, with the bar area remaining a grownups-only area. There will be more beer, 12 taps instead of six, and Soronen hopes 10 of the 12 will be local brews. Cigar City Brewery and Cold Storage’s Florida Avenue beers are already on the list.

Macchia never received a paycheck from her work at Shackleton’s Folly; construction delayed the opening and she had to get a job elsewhere. “We never got to work together,” Soronen said. “That’s part of why we want to do this now. She has a passion for the industry.”

Macchia knows that most people work all day and are too tired to cook when they get home. She knows you go to Publix or Fresh Market, and pick up something ready to eat. Oh, and she knows you go to McDonalds too.

“Most people eat out six nights a week,” Macchia said. “I’d like you to eat my food one or two nights a week. That food on the plate… That is my life right there. I really just want to cook because it is what I love.”

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