Restaurants

Fort Worth’s Clay Pigeon Loses Its James Beard Award-Nominated Chef — Bria Downey is a Rising Star and Now a Free Agent

Marcus Paslay's Restaurant Adds a New Chef Who Knows Beautiful Plates

BY // 06.21.20

Bria Downey — one of only two James Beard nominated chefs from Fort Worth (the other being Ellerbe Fine Foods’ Molly McCook, who is nominated in the Best Chef Texas category) — is gone from her job as executive chef at Marcus Paslay’s Clay Pigeon after an award-winning two year stint.

Prior to her run at Clay Pigeon, Downey was on the team that opened his Piatello Italian Kitchen in 2016, and she was pastry chef on the opening team at Bird Cafe before that.

Downey is a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef in the 2020 James Beard Award. The final James Beard announcements have now postponed until September. Chef Downey could not be reached for comment regarding her immediate plans. She hasn’t cooked at Clay Pigeon since March when the coronavirus pandemic prompted the shutdown of the restaurant.

While Downey has not attached her name to another restaurant just yet, Clay Pigeon recently introduced its new chef in a Facebook post: “We’ve got a new chef and he’s ready for his close-up! Marcus Kopplin is now manning the kitchen as chef de cuisine.”

Kopplin’s resume includes sister restaurants Cannon Chinese and Shinjuku Station, where he crafted some shockingly beautiful plates. His most recent stint has been in the Clay Pigeon family at Piatello.

Now, when both Kopplin and Paslay both are in the house, who will turn around when someone calls out, “Chef Marcus”? Clay Pigeon now has two Marcuses — and Bria Downey figures to be starting something exciting at some point in the near future. The 30-year-old Downey has to be considered one of the real rising stars in the entire Texas food scene. She has partnered with a few Fort Worth restaurants on pop-ups during the pandemic, including one at Tokyo Cafe’s ramen food cart, where she served matzo ball soup.

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There is a lot of dramatic change in the restaurant world in these coronavirus times — and Clay Pigeon is not immune to those realities.

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