It was one night last week, Peter Gilmore says. He was in the kitchen - in the middle of another 16-hour workday at Gilmore's, his posh French BYOB in downtown West Chester.
Sometime between the Cervelas de Homard and Crabe Doux aux Citron, with a rather full dining room in play, it hit him.
A light bulb moment.
"Let's just do it."
He had discussed this scenario with his wife and partner, Susan, many times over the last year or so. Gilmore has been cooking constantly since the late 1970s, when the Culinary Institute of America grad worked at the Coventry Forge Inn, followed by a remarkable 22 years in the employ of Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin, first on Spruce Street and later on Walnut. (If you ate lunch at the old LBF before 2001, Gilmore cooked your food.)
But after nearly 11 years on Gay Street and amid the tepid economy and keen competition, business was just not what it had been; he says the downturn began in 2008.
"I'm tired. This is time to make a change," he said. "Let's go out on top."
And with that, the Gilmores decided to close.
Fortunately for the Gilmores, they own the bricks. (If you're interested in leasing or buying the building - which includes the 36-seat/11-table restaurant and two apartments above, Gilmore says to write to him at the restaurant; he won't entertain calls.)
The hardest part, he said, was telling his staff. "It's never a good time to close a business," he said. "I knew I'd be putting them out of a job. But I'm sure they'll get back on their feet and even move up the ladder." His sous chef Jason Curtis (who won a major award from the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs‘ Jeune Commis Rôtisseurs Competition) and his dining room manager/pastry chef Frank Hurley began receiving job offers shortly after word began spreading, he said.
At 56, Gilmore is not retiring. "It's time for me to do something else," he said. Among his preferred options are becoming a corporate chef with better hours or a teacher.
Previous coverage here; see West Chester Dish's interview with Gilmore from last night here.