A lot has been happening in the DC chef community in the last month or so. Here’s a recap on the comings and goings of local chefs across the city.
First up, after 12 years Equinox’s chef and owner Todd Gray is passing the torch on to a new chef. Karen Nicolas, Equinox’s new executive chef, recently came from Simon Pearce restaurant in Philadelphia and Soul restaurant in Chicago. Nicolas also had a stint as executive sous chef at Tom Colicchio’s Gramercy Tavern in New York City. While Gray said in a press release that he will continue to work with Nicolas on dishes at Equinox, he added that her “culinary vision will be reflected in the menu.” Continue reading →
As I previously wrote, 1789 lost its long-time executive chef, Dan Giusti. The restaurant announced that Anthony Lombardo is taking the helm as the new executive chef. According to a news release, Lombardo was most recently the executive sous chef at Casa Nonna and like his predecessor, was also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. In addition to having worked at the Italian eatery in Dupont Circle, Lombardo was the chef de cuisine at Bacco Ristorante in Southfield, Michigan for four years.
Lombardo has already started in the kitchen, so it should be interesting to see how the menu will change in the coming months.
As Tim Carman and The Washington Post reported yesterday, executive chef Dan Giusti of 1789 is packing his bags for Denmark. The 27-year-old chef is heading to work at Noma, a two Michelin star restaurant in Copenhagen. The restaurant has been listed as “the best” restaurant in the world for two years in a row by Restaurant Magazine.
According to The Post, Dan spent two weeks staging at Noma in July when he was told that there might be an opening there for him to come join their team. One thing led to another and now the chef is moving to Denmark. Dan will be staying at 1789 through August 28th.
Dan was the first chef I met in DC when I started writing about food and was still green on the restaurant scene. I always liked chatting with him at events when he would indulge any of my snarky comments about food and I liked to see a fellow New Jerseyan be successful in DC. No doubt Dan’s passion for food is what’s taking him to Noma, though DC will miss him. Best of luck, chef!
In the most recent chef news in DC, Logan Cox has taken the helm at Cleveland Park’s Ripple. Previously, Cox was the executive chef at New Heights and had also worked with Frank Ruta at Palena and Tarver King at Woodlands Resort and Inn in Charleston, SC. He started working at Ripple in May.
From the looks of it, the menu won’t be changing much. There’s a farm-to-table emphasis (which I’m pretty sure existed previously), and dishes like the crispy duck breast, gnocchi and baked-to-order chocolate chip cookies remain on the menu with slightly different twists. Cox studied for a year in Italy, so perhaps we can expect this influence to peek through on the menu. For example, there’s a smoked quail agnolotti with hazelnuts and English peas that is available, according to a press release.
As for the previous executive chef, Teddy Diggs, word on the internet indicates he has moved to Martha’s Vineyard where he is the current chef at Home Port Restaurant, an 80-year-old institution. Sad to see Diggs leave Ripple, but it should be interesting to see if and how Ripple’s menu will change under the new chef.
In most recent chef news (other than which celebri-chef or popular chain are coming to DC), two DC restaurants have new chefs de cuisine.
Matt Kuhn, who has already been at DC Coast as the sous chef for two years, was recently bumped up to chef de cuisine for the restaurant following some minor renovations. “The team loves Matt. He has a great temperament,” said Jeff Tunks, a chef and one of the partners in Passion Food LLC. “He’s open to hearing concerns and ideas, and has an easy-going southern manner, and that makes for a good dynamic in a professional kitchen. Previously, Kuhn worked at FIG in Charleston.
Over in Tysons Corner at Michel, Jon Mathieson was named the chef de cuisine. Mathieson was previously the chef/owner of the now closed Inox and prior to that was the chef de cuisine at 2941. “I cook with a love for the classics, and at Michel at The Ritz-Carlton, I can offer the commitment to excellence that Chef Richard exemplifies,” said Mathieson. Mathieson’s accolades before coming to DC include positions at Le Bernardin and Lespinasse in New York, as well as executive chef at Stonehedge Inn in Tyngsboro, MA, where he won three stars from the Boston Globe and four diamonds from AAA.
A little while ago, Ashley brought you the news that Michel Richard is now offering buckets of fried chicken. And now the latest news from Central is the appointment of a new executive chef, Jason Maddens.
Not entirely new to the Michel Richard empire, Maddens was previously the sous chef at Michel in Tyson’s Corner. Prior to that he worked as the executive sous chef at 2941 in Falls Church, VA.
“Jason is a wonderful young chef, with good experience in high volume restaurants. We have been working together for several months and I am glad to have him join us at Central,” says Richard.
My guess is that the menu will remain mostly the same (don’t worry, that fried chicken isn’t going anywhere). According to Mel Davis, the executive assistant to Richard, Maddens will work with Richard on seasonal changes to the menu.
Againn and Art & Soul are both getting new executive chefs. Mike Sindoni, previously the chef de cuisine at Againn, will now be heading up the kitchen as executive chef. Former executive chef at Againn, Wes Morton, has moved to Art & Soul.
For Sindoni, the change to executive chef was a natural progression. He had been working at Againn since it opened in 2009 and had already had an active role in shaping the menu. Now he’s looking forward to collaborating more with the rest of the kitchen staff and floating around new ideas in the kitchen, he says. While there won’t be any major changes to the food at the British gastropub, Sindoni’s background is heavily influenced by Italian food, he says, which could peak through more in the food.
Further downtown at Art & Soul, Wes Morton has just started as the executive chef. “I’m excited about getting back to my Southern roots. It’s the first time in my career where I’ll be able to express myself in this way,” Morton says. Similar to Againn, I don’t think the food will change drastically, though it’s always interesting to see a new chef’s ideas and talents play out on the table. “My goal is to to keep the the essence of what Southern food is while giving our dishes a lighter feel with a modern and clean presentation,” Morton says.
Downtown Buddha-Bar has announced a new executive chef, Simon Volante, who officially joined the restaurant last week.
While Volante most recently worked as the executive chef at RED Restaurant & Bar in Los Angeles, he has also worked at DC’s Willard Room Restaurant, Jeffrey’s at the Watergate, Aquarelle and The Jefferson Hotel. At RED, Volante focused on an Asian-fusion dining concept, which he’ll undoubtedly carry over to Buddha-Bar.
Mikhail Don, co-owner of Buddha-Bar said in a statement, “Chef Volante is a natural fit to lead Buddha-Bar DC’s culinary team, and we are thrilled that he accepted our offer. You can expect inspiring things from us this year, as I’m confident that Chef Volante will take our innovative, fresh cuisine to even greater heights.”
Buddha-Bar’s previous executive chef, Greg Fortunato, left on good terms with Buddha-Bar and moved back to Las Vegas to be closer to his family, according to a public relations representative for the restaurant.