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Walter Manzke Speaks: What Happened at Bastide and What's Next

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The rumblings about Walter Manzke's exit from Bastide wafted through the air at Chefs & Champagne on Sunday. Bastide, which only reopened in September after closing for almost two years, owned by Joe Pytka, who's now gone through three top chefs in the restaurant's lifespan. We didn't have confirmation from either camp by the time it hit Eater on Monday morning, but it came soon after: Manzke (and wife Margarita) were out, Paul Shoemaker was in. Bastide got a solid three stars from the LAT---not quite the four stars it garnered with Alain Giraud at the helm, but not the one scathing star for Ludovic Lefebvre---they just added lunch, things seemed to be on track. So why and why now? The story from Joe Pytka's camp was that Manzke "left of his own volition," but several uninvolved tipsters suggested he was asked to leave. Manzke says "It was unexpected but mutual. I wouldn't have left if he didn't want me to leave." More insight from the chef, next.

More from Manzke:

"We (wife and pastry chef Margarita) were in LA a long time before we went to Northern California, and we wanted to come back. We needed something big to bring us back, and I'm grateful to Bastide and Mr. Pytka for that. I knew the risk of going to Bastide. It would be a challenge to take it and turn it around. It's not just opening any restaurant. It had some baggage.

I've never opened a restaurant that way before. You know, one day he just said, 'How about we open next week.' Four of us opened it, we just jumped in and started. It took some time to get the ball rolling. Some of the reviews were a little odd, but the customers were great. The honest feedback from repeat guests was great.

I finally felt like everything was coming together at the restaurant. We were getting the right people in both front and back of the house. I had a great team. A lot of return people from when Bastide was open before. My sous Chris Gore is great. But then the attitude changed. It just got odd. There were some accusations. But this was unexpected. I was almost encouraged to step away. I didn't feel welcome anymore. I knew the end was near.

Altogether, Bastide was a great experience. I can not imagine a better way to come back to LA."

Manzke says he and Margarita might do something on their own, maybe with someone else, but they definitely want to stay in LA. "It would have to be something huge to pull me out of LA. I'm not saying I'd never do something in New York, Vegas or even NoCal again. But it would have to be big."
· Bastide Countdown: Introducing Exec Chef Walter Manzke [~ELA~]
· BREAKING: Possible Manzke Exit at Bastide [~ELA~]
· Confirmed: Manzke Out [~ELA~]

(Photo from Daily Dish)