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john wabeck
rising stars
September 2003 WASHINGTON, D.C.
B i o g r a p h y
There is a bright light on the D.C. restaurant scene. Firefly is one of the city’s most heralded new restaurants. Although the décor is innovative, the service top-notch and the wine list well chosen, John Wabeck’s cooking is creating the loudest buzz.

A native of Maryland’s eastern shore, John received classical training at the Culinary Institute of America. Since then, his resume reads like a who’s who of the D.C. food scene. After graduating in 1992, John became part of Red Sage’s opening team with Mark Miller. From there he landed a job with Ris Lacoste at 1789. John developed a talent for Asian cooking when he worked at Asia Nora with Munehiro Mori and Christian Thorton. By 1997, Nora Pouillon recognized John’s skills and named him chef de cuisine at Restaurant Nora.

Finally in 1998, it was the recommendation from nationally acclaimed Chef Matthew Lake of New Heights, who worked with him at Red Sage, that launched John’s first stint as an executive chef - at New Heights. In that position, Wabeck enjoyed the freedom to design New American menus that showcased a myriad of cultural flavors.

More recently, John was lured to California’s wine country as executive chef at Brix in Yountville. Here, Wabeck further honed his skills in melding French and Asian cuisines while also studying Napa Valley wines. In fact, he spent three months working at Darioush Winery, a boutique winery that produces only 10,000 cases a year. He cleaned barrels, harvested grapes, and occasionally entered the tasting room. His insider’s knowledge of grape varietals enhanced his skill in pairing the perfect wines with his menu at Firefly.

John came back to D.C. to open the bar and lounge for the Hotel Rouge and Topaz Hotel before being given the opportunity to open Firefly, a true American bistro that is as straightforward and uncomplicated as it is exceptional. And it’s not just buzz.