Those who know chef Jimmy Gibson know he's not a quitter.
That’s why on Friday, when he announced via Facebook his abrupt resignation from Downtown restaurant Jimmy G's, it sent shock waves through the dining community.
Gibson, a longstanding chef in Cincinnati, has held top jobs from executive chef at the Phoenix to corporate chef with Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment. Four years ago, Gibson opened Jimmy G's at 435 Elm St. with Ron Goldschmidt, as well as other partners. Kinjal Desai came on board as operating partner in 2015.
He said his decision to resign came when he realized that no matter what he did, things would not change: He would not get the money he was owed, and his suggestions for improvements at the restaurant would continue to be ignored.
"I'm a fighter and I will fight for a cause to my own detriment," he said.
The management and ownership of Jimmy G's issued a statement Tuesday morning, thanking Gibson for his years of service while stating, "It is not our company’s policy to discuss private employment matters in public. Both our kitchen and service staff remain unchanged, as does our collective commitment to the high standards established and executed by Mr. Gibson." (Read the full statement below.)
Although the restaurant bears his name, Gibson has no ownership in it; he simply works there as the chef and an employee. However, he said he has paid for restaurant fixtures with his own money to keep the place running.
"I paid for a water heater that had to be replaced," he said. "The (new) water heater is a year old now, and I still haven't been paid back."
Gibson said he also has taken voluntary salary cuts on different occasions over the years. "Since the place opened ... the money that I gave up in salary cuts is about $40,000," he said. "That's not a small chunk of change -- not for me anyway."
He said he willingly took the cuts to ride through the lean times with the understanding that when things rebounded, he would move back up to his full salary. Gibson, who described himself as a "responsible business person," said he has not had his salary restored from the last cut. "I've been asking for my full salary for about nine months," he said.
Last Wednesday, Gibson talked to the management and ownership about things he believed would improve restaurant operations and guest experience. He said the discussion went nowhere and when he was told they didn't have the money to pay him what he was owed, he tendered his resignation -- effective immediately.
"When things get contentious, it doesn't do anybody any good to hang around for some kind of two-week notice," he said.
For now, the restaurant’s name remains the same; no plans to change it have been announced publicly. "I don't know how long they're going to operate with my name on it. But if I'm not in the kitchen, it's no longer Jimmy G's," Gibson said.
Gibson, who is 58 years old, intends to continue working in the restaurant industry and said he has already received offers and proposals for his next gig. He said he's relieved he made the decision to move on.
"I did not make a rash decision," he said. "I've been less stressed and more at peace (now) than I've been in the last couple of years, probably."
He said his phone has been "blowing up" with questions and messages -- mostly from his customers – and he is responding to each one.
"I didn't realize that many people ... cared," he said.
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.