Chef Kenny Gilbert closes Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar

The Springfield restaurant suffered setbacks in late 2023 and didn’t rebound.

Chef Kenny Gilbert, shown here in a file 2019 photo, announced the closure his of Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar in Springfield on June 3.
Chef Kenny Gilbert, shown here in a file 2019 photo, announced the closure his of Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar in Springfield on June 3.
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Chef Kenny Gilbert closed his Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar in Springfield on June 3.

He announced the closure of the space at 1602 Walnut St. on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“Good evening. It’s with deep sorry that we announce the closing of Silkie’s Chicken and Champagne Bar, effective 6/3/24. 

“Opening during COVID was a challenging time, but due to your support we excelled. 

“The last 9 months have been challenging, to say the least. Reduced guest traffic, inflation and employee turnover played a key part in this closure as well as some other personal issues. Nonetheless, we took pride in serving our community and appreciated every single guest that set foot through the doors. I want to thank all of my staff, past and present for creating memorable moments for our community. We worked extremely hard to serve you and we thank you for the opportunity.”

Gilbert opened Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar in late 2020.

He had several setbacks in late 2023.

The Silkie's Chicken & Champagne Bar logo
Silkie's Chicken & Champagne Bar/Facebook

He sold holiday dinners to-go. That venture necessitated a refrigerated truck parked outside the restaurant to store food. Neighbors complained about the noise created when the refrigeration unit started once every hour, Gilbert said during a telephone interview June 4.

“That was $16,000-$17,000 in revenue that basically helped sustain Silkie’s during September and October, which are historically soft months, I didn’t have that revenue,” he said.

Staffing proved to be a major issue in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Two longtime chefs quit due to health reasons and his staff turned over twice during that time, forcing him to close several Friday nights.

“So that’s where I lost the cash flow. Closing six different Fridays over the course of that period of time as well. That was $5,000-$6,000 in sales we’d get each Friday,” he said.

While the closings were announced on social media, some would-be customers hadn’t heard and showed up to find the doors closed.

“Obviously, I guess they’re upset. They’re disappointed. Imagine if they just drove an hour, they plan and schedule this. It’s like going to the NBA game and then all of a sudden your favorite player isn’t playing,” he said.

Silkie’s was a counter-service restaurant and did not take reservations.

In January, he decided to give Silkie’s another six months. Fortunes did not turn. Gilbert has been keeping the restaurant afloat through other ventures like sales of his book, “Southern Cooking, Global Flavors,” guest appearances at food events and teaching at culinary schools.

He is also part of the Grove Bay Hospitality Group based in Miami, where he has lived since September 2022. The group operates House of Birds + Drop Biscuits in the Regatta Cove entertainment district in Coconut Grove.

Silkie’s was open Wednesday through Sunday. Gilbert said he was used to bringing in $8,000 on Saturday nights. Recently he has barely made $8,000 all week.

He has opened and closed other ventures in Northeast Florida.

He had Southern Kitchen + Bar in Jacksonville Beach, Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach and Gilbert’s Social on the Southside.

The Silkie’s location had previously been Bleu Chocolat and Three Layers, operated by different owners.

Gilbert has served as Oprah Winfrey’s private chef. He oversaw the meals during G8 summit in 2004 when he was executive chef at The Lodge Sea Island Golf Resort on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

He became known nationally when he competed on the seventh season of the Bravo Network chef competition show “Top Chef.”

He worked for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and was executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

Gilbert’s business plan has been to operate in underserved areas. While customers at large restaurants in the St. Johns Town Center seemingly have no problem with an hour wait, customers complained if that happened at Silkie’s, he said.

“I’ve never opened in an ‘A’ market. My markets were always ‘B’ and ‘C’ markets because my name carried us. Basically, we are a destination.”

Gilbert said he has no immediate plans for another Jacksonville-based restaurant concept. 

He is in talks with another party to help open a restaurant on the Emerald Trail. That project is still in negotiation.

“The only way I would do it is if they took care of 100% of the financial burden,” he said.

“I can create the concept, help with the design, train the staff and position a chef. I can pop in and out, and maybe have my restaurant group in Miami be part of the management. I would just collect a fee off the top.”



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