John Griffitsh at The Advocate. Photo Frances Dinkelspiel
John Griffiths, seen at left in The Advocate’s kitchen, is leaving the 7-month-old Berkeley restaurant. Photo Frances Dinkelspiel
John Griffiths, seen at left in The Advocate’s kitchen, is leaving the 7-month-old Berkeley restaurant. Photo Frances Dinkelspiel

Just seven months after it opened, Berkeley restaurant The Advocate, the sister restaurant to Comal, is losing its inaugural chef, John Griffiths.

Griffiths will be replaced by Michelin-starred chef Joseph Humphrey, whose credentials include stints as executive chef at Auberge du Soleil, The Restaurant at Meadowood and Murray Circle at Cavallo Point. More recently, Humphrey oversaw the kitchen for one year at the Farmer & The Fox at the Cairdean Estate in St. Helena. He left there in June 2015 to, he said at the time, pursue new opportunities closer to his home city of Oakland. Humphrey has also been a corporate chef at the Mina Group.

Griffiths, meanwhile, is moving to a new post at Bluestem, a Californian brasserie in San Francisco’s Union Square neighborhood. In a case of chef musical chairs, Bluestem’s current chef, Jeff Banker, only started there in September 2015.

There was no word from Griffiths or The Advocate’s owners — John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman — on why the chef was leaving. The restaurant group’s spokeswoman said they would not comment and that Griffiths was transitioning “to a new opportunity.”

In a recent interview, Hoffman said he and Paluska had a clear vision of what they wanted the menu to look like before they hired Griffiths. “We’d been working on the project for more than a couple years before we met our chef,” he told 24East. “We deliberately left a lot of room for finding a chef who uses his or her own voice with the menu, not have it so set up.”

Read more about The Advocate on Nosh.

Since its August 2015 opening, the Advocate, which offers a California-Mediterranean inspired menu with wood-grilled entrées, salads and flatbreads, has garnered good reviews. Michael Bauer at the Chronicle awarded it 2.5 stars in October 2015 and said, “it has a well-executed American menu crafted by John Griffiths and handsome interior.” Luke Tsai at the East Bay Express was even more enthusiastic, writing in the same month: “Simply put, the Elmwood district’s newest restaurant is putting out some of the most delicious California cuisine in the East Bay.”

The Advocate’s incoming chef first trained at Dickie Brennan’s The Palace Café in New Orleans and launched his California culinary career in 1996, working under Bradley Ogden and George Morrone at One Market. He has accumulated several Michelin Star and Bib Gourmand awards, earning two stars at Meadowood within its first year of operation, as well as one star at Murray Circle just three months after opening. Murray Circle was also awarded 3.5 stars by Michael Bauer, who called Humphrey a “masterful chef.”

Griffiths will be gradually transitioning out at The Advocate, working alongside Humphrey over the next couple of weeks, according to the restaurant’s spokeswoman, who added that diners can expect to see Humphrey’s personal style gradually incorporated into the menu in the coming months.

This story was updated after publication with the information about Bluestem Brasserie.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...