Young and Hungry

Chef R.J. Cooper Leaves Vidalia

snapper at vidalia 4

UPDATED: 5:13 p.m. 8/9/2010

R.J. Cooper, the chef who won a James Beard award in 2007 while helming the Vidalia kitchen, has abruptly left the downtown restaurant. Cooper confirmed his departure this afternoon but declined to provide further details.

Cooper did say that he would try to resurrect his celebrated "24" tasting menu elsewhere while he prepares to open his own restaurant, Pigtails, a reference to his twin daughters and his love of pork products. He's close to signing a deal on a neighborhood location away from downtown.

The Detroit native has been at Vidalia since 2004, after working at New Heights and Toka Cafe. In a 2006 interview with, Cooper said that he considered Vidalia and Bistro Bis owner Jeffrey Buben a mentor.

"Jeffrey Buben taught me about running a business, corporate structure, and keeping systems in place — things that make you successful," Cooper said.

Buben could not immediately be reached for comment.

  • Pingback: Restaurants Turn to Frozen Food; The End of El Bulli - Multi-City Restaurant Buzz - Zagat

  • Mike

    Funny you say replace. You cannot replace a James Beard winner with a no name untalented sous chef!!!

  • Pingback: Friday Update | EatMore DrinkMore

  • Jenn

    His name is Hamilton Johnson and he will now get a James Beard Award thanks to you screwing up. He appreciates the opportunity. Jeffrey Buben does great things for people as you know, without him you would be peddling hot dogs at Nats Stadium. You also were once a "no name sous chef". And now when people hear your name they cringe.

  • Bill

    Your statement Jenn is faulse. Chef Cooper won the Beard with his own merits an talents. His reputation as a chef are flawless.

  • JB

    Co-won the award if I recall.

  • Lew

    Cheif Hamilton is a great chef with fantansitc people skills. He will be able to inpspire those around him to work to their full potential without making them feel worthless and inferior. I'm glad that egotistical maniac is out of the Vidalia. I'm sorry for the people who have to work for him at Roque 24.