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UPDATED: 5:13 p.m. 8/9/2010

R.J. Cooper, the chef who won a James Beard award in 2007 while helming the Vidalia kitchen, has abruptly left the downtown restaurant. Cooper confirmed his departure this afternoon but declined to provide further details.

Cooper did say that he would try to resurrect his celebrated “24” tasting menu elsewhere while he prepares to open his own restaurant, Pigtails, a reference to his twin daughters and his love of pork products. He’s close to signing a deal on a neighborhood location away from downtown.

The Detroit native has been at Vidalia since 2004, after working at New Heights and Toka Cafe. In a 2006 interview with StarChefs.com, Cooper said that he considered Vidalia and Bistro Bis owner Jeffrey Buben a mentor.

“Jeffrey Buben taught me about running a business, corporate structure, and keeping systems in place — things that make you successful,” Cooper said.

Buben could not immediately be reached for comment.