Another local temple of Continental cuisine, Rudys' 2900 in Finksburg, has tumbled.
Known for its game dishes, spectacular presentation and luscious sauces, Rudys' 2900 is the third hallowed institution of fine dining to fade from the Baltimore-area restaurant scene in the past six months. Jeannier's closed in February and Maison Marconi shut down in June.
Chef Rudy Speckamp, who along with his partner, maitre d' Rudi Paul, opened the restaurant 23 years ago when its Carroll County location was still regarded as the country, said yesterday that negotiations are under way to sell the establishment to new owners, whom he declined to name. Speckamp said the restaurant will remain open until Sept. 3 to accommodate already booked events, but regular service ceased July 31.
Several factors figured in the decision to close, Speckamp said. Chief among them was that attracting more business would have required revamping the menu - a step that would have meant a substantial investment of time and money. "You have to be realistic," said Speckamp, 59, adding that "at this stage of life you want to do something that is a little less stressful."
Speckamp was set to fly to California today to begin teaching a four-week course at Greystone, the Culinary Institute of America facility in the Napa Valley. A certified master chef as well as a member of an American team of chefs that medaled in the 1988 Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Speckamp said he planned to teach and do restaurant consulting work. Paul, Speckamp said, plans to supervise the dining operation of the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills.
News of the restaurant's demise was seen by industry watchers as part of a movement away from classic fare toward lighter dishes.
"Baltimore is catching up with modern trends," said restaurant consultant Diane Feffer Neas. "A lot of places, like Marconi's and Jeannier's are closing. But a lot of new ones, Taste, Pazo and Limogne, are opening."
The kitchens of the new restaurants practice some of the techniques taught in Continental cuisine, she said, "but they just lighten them up. They are not drowning everything in butter."
The trend away from Continental cuisine and toward "small plates and fresh clean looks" is sweeping the nation, said Dara Bunjon, a restaurant consultant. But Bunjon had fond memories of the meals she has eaten over the years at Rudys' 2900.
"Rudy taught us what great food was many years ago," Bunjon said. She recalled that when she took the now-defunct Epicurean Club of Maryland to the restaurant in the late 1980s, "Rudy served us dishes, one wrapped in calf's skin, that took your breath away."
Fred Gloth and his wife, Mary Jane, have been dining in the restaurant for the past 23 years, sometimes more than twice a week. The smoked salmon drew them to the restaurant, Gloth said, and the fish dishes kept them coming back. The couple even planned their vacation around the restaurant's annual late-summer master chefs dinner, a three-hour feast that featured dishes such as free-range quail topped with truffle sauce. This year, Gloth said, with sadness in his voice, there was no dinner.
Over the years, Speckamp and Paul served as mentors to many area chefs and waiters. Mark Henry, now the executive chef at the Oregon Grille in Hunt Valley, was one who benefited from their tutelage.
"Rudy Speckamp taught me all the basics," Henry said. "He was very even-tempered, never one to shout, he ran a very quiet, very professional kitchen."
Paul, he said, was "the consummate front of the house man, the fellow who knew all about how to set a table for a seven-course meal, and how to treat customers."
The restaurant business, Henry said, is getting "very bottom-line oriented," trending toward dishes that are easy to prepare and keep costs down. "It is hustle and bustle and get it over with."
That, he said, was never Rudys' style.