Tavern on the Green’s Chef Leaves, Five Months After Its Reopening


Less than five months after the revered but troubled Central Park restaurant Tavern on the Green reopened with a costly renovation, a new management and a new menu, its executive chef, Katy Sparks, has left.

The Tavern’s co-owners recently announced that they had “amicably parted ways” with Ms. Sparks, who has worked in several New York kitchens since the 1980s.

Since the Tavern reopened in April, it has received lukewarm to bad reviews from critics, including a “satisfactory” rating in June from Pete Wells of The New York Times, who gave the restaurant no stars. Mr. Wells wrote that the restaurant’s latest iteration was in some ways an improvement over its last, which closed in 2009. But he said, “You may hear a few teaspoons of added regret when I say that it’s not a good restaurant yet by any measure.”

Jim Caiola, who runs the restaurant with David Salama, said that the parting was amicable, and credited Ms. Sparks with helping them win the contract to run Tavern from the city’s parks department. “We were a team,” he said.

Mr. Caiola added that she had “perfected” a menu of fresh American fare that Tavern would continue. But he said, “Sometimes you don’t know exactly what a job is until you create it and it happens.” He said the restaurant, which seats 350, was unusually large, and was under a microscope because of its fame. “It wasn’t a good match for Katy,” he said.

Sirha October 2016 728×90

Ms. Sparks said she would return to the food consulting business that she started in 2007. “I’ve been sort of a midwife for other people’s hopes and dreams,” she said. “It’s really gratifying work. As much as I really enjoyed working with Jim and Dave, it was time for me to return to my own work.”

The bad reviews Tavern received, she said, were not a problem, “not for me,” and she said some of the criticism was helpful.

“Everybody takes ownership of Tavern on the Green,” Ms. Sparks said, adding that she knew tough criticism went with the territory. “I’ve been in New York well over 20 years,” she said.

Ms. Sparks has also worked at Bussaco in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Quilty’s in SoHo. “It was a wonderful experience,” she said of Tavern on the Green. “I think they’re on a path to do fabulously well.”
“Of course, it would have been better if everybody had been happy every single moment, but the restaurant is young. It will continue to grow and evolve.”

Mr. Caiola said he and Mr. Salama had taken the critiques to heart. “We’ve really tightened the ship so much,” he said. “What we are doing today is night and day different than where we were when we opened. We’re grateful for the support of all the people who have been willing to come back.”

They are interviewing candidates for executive chef, Mr. Caiola said. “We need someone who has no conflict with the volume and the criticism and the pressure, who thrives on it,” he said. “Do you know anyone?”