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.
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“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.