The chef of Durham’s acclaimed Piedmont restaurant is leaving

John May, chef of Piedmont restaurant Contributed
John May, chef of Piedmont restaurant Contributed

Durham Chef John May, whose work at Piedmont restaurant helped make him one of Zagat’s “9 Southern Chefs to Watch,” is leaving the restaurant.

May, a Durham native, told The News & Observer he isn’t immediately jumping into another kitchen and is taking some time off as he considers his next venture. He announced the departure in an Instagram post Tuesday night.

“It’s been a crazy time, but mine at Piedmont is ended,” May wrote. “I leave knowing I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I’ve loved my experience and the people I’ve met. I’m excited to see what happens next and I thank everyone involved for the opportunity. The memories made here are one I’ll never forget and the friendships are ones I’ll cherish forever.”

Piedmont is a dedicated farm-to-table restaurants in the area, primarily sourcing its ingredients from a farm less than an hour away. Owners Jamie DeMent and Richard Holcomb also own Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough, sometimes supplying as much as 80 percent of the menu.

May took over at Piedmont in 2016 following two and a half years as sous chef at Vivian Howard’s Chef & the Farmer restaurant in Kinston. While at Chef & the Farmer, he became an audience favorite on Howard’s award-winning PBS docu-series “A Chef’s Life,” but made his own way in Durham.

DeMent said May’s departure was somewhat unexpected but that Piedmont has never been about one person.

“Piedmont is an ingredient-driven restaurant, about showcasing North Carolina farmers and fishermen,” DeMent said. “John did a great job when he was here, he’s from Durham and he’s been great at connecting to the community.”

May revamped the Piedmont menu in January, taking the restaurant in a more casual direction focusing on small plates and introducing a cocktail list teeming with mezcal.

DeMent said the redesigned menu will stay in place. They’re not searching for an executive chef, she said, and the kitchen staff will remain intact.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson