Chef Greg Couillard takes a Hemingway-esque departure from the Spice Room

Chef Greg Couillard takes a Hemingway-esque departure from the Spice Room

The logo of the Spice Room bears Couillard's name

Yorkville’s schmoozy Spice Room chef, Greg Couillard, has skipped town for Mexico once again, leaving long-time colleague and fellow chef David Nganga to hold down the fort—only this time, it’s for an indefinite period. No, Couillard’s not a fugitive bandido, but there may be reason to believe that the unceremonious departure is about more than just sun worship.

Globe and Mail restaurant critic Joanne Kates broke the news in her column with a note that Couillard had “found his paradise” down south, but Spice Room manager Curtis Gushulak takes issue with the source, saying, “Greg is not one to use words like that.” Gushulak gives us the official line: that Couillard is on sabbatical (the second of its nature this year) to finish writing his three-year-in-the-making cookbook-autobiography, The Good, the Bad and the Recovering. Recovering from what? We can only speculate.

Although the chef turned Hemingway has garnered top accolades for his food at Stelle, China Blues and Habitat, he’s earned a certain bad-boy reputation. A source tells us that Couillard pickles more than just the scotch bonnet chilies: earlier in the year, he’d been spotted making frequent trips to the Spice Room bar in the middle of dinner service, raising suspicions that the habitual holidays (once purportedly for “palate fatigue”) are more than a busman’s holiday. Friends report that “the weather is beautiful, and he’s doing absolutely great.” As for when we’ll next be able to taste his creations, no one can say—no wonder Now magazine once called the here-there-and-everywhere Couillard “T.O.’s most unpredictable chef.” When pressed, Gushulak says simply, “I don’t know. Does anyone when it comes to Greg Couillard?”

One thing we do know: we want that cookbook.