Celebrated Tampa Chef Greg Baker Announces Retirement

Baker, who owns The Refinery, wrote at length about his complicated relationship with the restaurant industry.

Photo: Courtesy Greg Baker

Since the early 1980s, chef Greg Baker has spent most of his time inside restaurants, working late into the night and sometimes until the early morning. But soon, that will end; Baker plans to retire.

The five-time James Beard Award semifinalist, who opened The Refinery in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood in 2010 with his wife, Michelle, announced his retirement, saying he plans to focus on "writing, advocacy work, and consulting," according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

"After 35 years, I've come to the realization that I can make a bigger impact in the world through writing, advocacy work and consulting than I ever will in serving food and feel that it's time to shift my focus to those areas," Baker said in a statement to the Business Journal.

This comes six months after Baker wrote at length about his experience in the restaurant industry. In his piece "What to Do with the Empty Hour," which was published on F&W's Communal Table, Baker opened up his mental health, the stress of running a restaurant — specifically after the wreckage of Hurricane Irma — and the loneliness of what he called "the empty hour."

"I'm faced with that empty hour that I always hid from: the time between getting off of work and coming down from the adrenaline rush enough to do something normal like eating dinner, maybe watching TV or reading a book," he wrote. "That's the loneliest time of day for me. I'm completely wired and there's no one around. And it's also the best time for those dark thoughts come a-calling."

Considered one of the most transformative restaurants in the Tampa Bay area, Baker's The Refinery incorporated classical French technique with the flavors of Florida's rich cultural history.

Baker became known for forging relationships with local farmers, defending their rights, and speaking out about policy reform, all the while resurrecting nearly-lost Florida ingredients and cooking techniques, like whole animal butchery and whole vegetable use.

As Baker garnered more national attention, his restaurant quickly attracted diners from around the country, leading him to expand his neighborhood spot into a larger space in early 2018. While Baker didn't specify when his retirement will begin, The Refinery property will be put up for sale, per the Business Journal's report.

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