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Hawks loses GM — and major talent — to Bay Area

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 4:55 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 5:19 pm

I recently happened upon a tweet from Matthew Walker, the GM and wine director at Hawks, and was saddened to learn he would be leaving town. Anyone who has enjoyed a tremendous dining experience at Hawks, present company included, can likely point to Walker as a being a big part of that. He’s that good. He’s engaging, committed, smart and he clearly loves the restaurant and wine business. During one dinner at Hawks, when I ordered wine pairings with the food, we marveled at Walker’s service and his ability to provide just the right amount of background about the wines and the reasons he selected them to go with the food. I also told him how much I liked the mushroom soup. He returned moments later with the recipe on Hawks stationery, tucked into an envelope.

That level of service and that kind of talent is not so easy to replace for a top-flight restaurant like Hawks. So I caught up with Walker to get the details and to tell him he will be missed. Turns out, his departure is strictly for personal reasons. He’s a single parent, and his daughter is about to start kindergarten in the Bay Area. Walker simply didn’t want to be a long-distance dad.

“I’m sad to be leaving. It’s a new chapter in my life,” said Walker, who was at Hawks for four years.

When I recounted some of the service highlights from my visits to Hawks, Walker was pleased but modest.

“That really was my goal. It has been a great pleasure working with the team here. (Co-owner and chef) Mike (Fagnoni) is by far the most talented chef I’ve ever worked with. We have built a team that changes very little. It’s a tight-knit group and provides the best experience we possibly can.”

He added, “Our guests are still our guests, but they also become friends of the restaurant, friends of the staff and personal friends.”

Walker said it was tough to say goodbye, but the decision to leave was never in doubt.

“My daughter is the number one priority in my life, so the decision for me was easy,” he said.

Walker’s last day at Hawks was Sunday. Friends and fans can find him working during lunchtime at Boulevard Restaurant (1 Mission St., San Francisco).

Walker’s replacement at Hawks is Lawrence Main, who is also a sommelier. Like Walker, Main comes from the Seattle area.

Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob

Read more articles by Blair Anthony Robertson

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

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Note: The Appetizers blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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