David Durnell, beverage director at Bocado, has died. He was 28. In addition to his role at the Westside restaurant, Durnell was involved as a managing partner at the forthcoming Amer in Inman Park. Further details were not immediately available, but Bocado and Amer partner Brian Lewis expressed his grief in a statement provided to Eater Atlanta.
"It is with profound sadness and grief that we mourn the loss of our colleague and friend David Durnell," Lewis said. "During David's six years at Bocado, we were both inspired and pushed by his creativity, perseverance and humility. He had such a kind admiration for the Atlanta restaurant community, and his friendship will be overwhelmingly missed."
Durnell was known as one of Atlanta's top bartenders. He was named as Eater Atlanta's Bartender of the Year in 2011, and Zagat Atlanta placed him on the publication's 30 Under 30 list in 2015. In addition to his time at Bocado, Durnell created cocktails for STG Trattoria, Lewis's Italian concept that closed in 2013.
Amer was on track to open in the coming weeks. There's no word yet on whether those plans will be put on hold.
Update: February 18, 9:50 a.m. Ticonderoga Club's Paul Calvert shared some words on Durnell.
"David made bright, refreshing drinks that were chronically under-appreciated and paired well with the food at Bocado," Calvert said. "However, I won't miss him for his drinks. For me, David was a guy that if you made time for a real conversation with him — not small-talk — the results could be invigorating, like climbing out of a cold lake hidden in the woods.
"Here's what I'll remember David for and why I'll miss him: We were at a party once surrounded by restaurant people. He found me and wanted to talk. I didn't give in right away; I was looking past him, over his shoulders, not wanting to get stuck in a corner at a party. Also, I really didn't care to talk about cocktails. All night at this party it was restaurants and food, bars and cocktails. I was bored by it. Lucky for me, David wanted to really get into it. And so we did. Literature and theory. Michel Foucault and Sam Beckett. Prisons and the police state. Politics and sex. The conversation was erratic, intelligent, funny, occasionally dogmatic but totally engaging. Before I knew it, we were some of the last ones still at the party.
"It was like this with David every time, if I just stopped looking past him and settled in to really communicate. I wish I had done that more often when I had the chance."
This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.