It’s official: Coca has closed for good
After a saga of financial woes, the sudden departure of a star chef and an unexpected shutdown in March, the official word on Coca’s fate is finally out: the restaurant will not reopen, and plans of renewal have been shelved. When we last checked in on the Coca fiasco, chef Nathan Isberg (who left the restaurant after a break with management in November) was weighing his options. Should he go his own way, or get back in the overheated kitchen with one of Coca’s investors? When a letter was posted last week, indicating the site’s seizure by the landlord, we talked to Isberg to find out what went wrong.
According to the chef, his partnership with the investor fell apart before a new vision could even take shape. The negotiations reminded Isberg of previous headaches. When Coca closed, for example, suppliers (including the Cheese Boutique and Kawartha Ecological Growers) were reportedly hit with major losses—Isberg estimates as much as $80,000. Another instance the chef noted involved Coca’s landlord, who claims to have suffered from the restaurant’s difficulties because the investor stopped paying rent after a rate increase. The troubled investor declined an interview, but indicated that his plans to reopen a revamped space are firm and financed, and that “ignorance from the landlord who insisted on increasing the rent at a time of major challenge to the sector” was the stumbling block that sealed Coca’s fate.
For now, Isberg is keeping busy at the Berkley Church, but he is still hungry for a place of his own—without an investor this time. “I’m remembering why I like cooking in the first place. I think I can transfer that into a restaurant,” he says. The aspiring entrepreneur is thinking about opening up a place somewhere in the Junction. Considering his taste for Ontario ingredients, his studies of sustainable food and his admiration of Grant van Gameren’s nose-to-tail techniques at The Black Hoof, we’re expecting a restaurant of the fresh-and-local variety.
Before Isberg starts his new project, he’s working on getting back to basics. “I am mostly looking for ways to cook the food I like without getting pulled into the clichés and drama of restaurants as I’ve seen them,” he says. “I’ll have to spend the next little while unlearning some bad habits associated with the last few years.”
7 thoughts on “It’s official: Coca has closed for good”
star chef, is that some kind of joke?
I was the Chef at Coca before it closed I was brought in to replace Nathan in November. Funny you don’t check out your information about what really happened at Coca.
Star Chef? Ya right straight out of school and all of a sudden hes a star? Hell no pay your dues and learn how to b sanitary.I never seen such a dirty kitchen as the one ran by Nathan.Disgusting.
star chef- starring at pretentiousness. starring at deception.
I’m disappointed that the restaurant has closed, since it was one of my neighbourhood faves. But I had noticed a significant change in the months leading up to the closing.
@ Mark Weind…so then, what really happened?
I was brought on as part of the team recruited in the wake of this “fiasco”. In my 6 month tenure as sous chef, I learned alot about the situation. Suffice to say, the situation at Coca was a product of some pretty oily dealings between very wealthy and sharky investors. Basically the hardworking folks who put the joint on the map (Isberg n co), as well as those of us poached last minute to keep the kitchen running, were ALL left without a paddle as a result of this failed marriage of investors.
Mark Weind and I, along with our rag tag FOH, did what we could with absolutely no support from these investors, under unceratin and shady circumstances (the list is shocking). It’s a paramount example of how dedicated industry professionals will 99% of the time be at the mercy of their investors’ ill-conceived ‘plans’.
Chefs and GMs, if your owner is only barely extending ‘satellite’ command over his investment, ie never there/no evidence of a commitment to the operation beyond monetary gain, pack up your knives.
Two years later… Wondering if this was the right one! Saw Viktor’s post – must be! How are you man? Very long time! Hope all is well. Cheers, gr.
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