2014 Washington, D.C. Area Rising Stars: Why They Shine

2014 Washington, D.C. Area Rising Stars: Why They Shine

We spent our summer canvassing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, from Baltimore on through D.C. and southward to Richmond, visiting more than 120 chefs, artisans, bartenders, and sommeliers. Everywhere we went we came across industry professionals proudly showcasing the bounty of the Chesapeake. We sunk our teeth into rockfish and luscious blue crab, and slurped more than our fair share of oysters as we found the Chesapeake once again overflowing with them. But even though a strong mid-Atlantic sensibility emerged, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. each have their own distinct character and pockets of personality with chefs and artisans working to express their immediate surroundings. The vast and vital body of water that is the Chesapeake unifies this market and its chefs.

Dining in the D.C. area was like coming home to all our favorite things. The food community here fed us well. But it was the critical mass of impeccably executed classics—the seeming sleepers—that defined the market and reminded us that simplicity is the mark of a mature kitchen. And still, chefs surprised us by shaping pasta around cork screws, and creating dishes inspired by storm clouds, cherry cola, and even coal.

A new generation of chefs is coming to the region from some of the country’s best kitchens, bringing with them their myriad experiences—taking all they’ve learned and infusing it with Mid-Atlantic pride. They’re building a community dedicated to exalting regional product through inspired, personal visions. Here are 2014 StarChefs.com D.C. Area Rising Stars, their visions, and why they shine.

Chef: Kyle Bailey, The Arsenal at Bluejacket

Kyle Bailey came of age in the kitchen with chefs the likes of Shea Gallante and Dan Barber. Now at The Arsenal at Bluejacket, he’s helping usher in a new age of chef-driven, casual American dining. And beer is his creative juice. A long-time collaborator with D.C. beer guru turned brewer, Greg Engert, Bailey is cooking amped-up pub cuisine that has the rib-sticking refinement to match the nuance (and variety) of Bluejacket’s house-brewed beers. Bailey’s food is approachable and has the technique, polish, and power to mold the palates of a drinking crowd—and permanently alter their dining expectations. We’re waiting for the day when there’s an Arsenal-caliber restaurant in every American town.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Seared Gnocchi, French Beans, Summer Sausage, and Parmesan
  • Papa Weaver Pork Loin, Chanterelles, Asian Pears, Red Quinoa, and Pecans
Chef: Ian Boden, The Shack

There’s a shack in Virginia—Ian Boden’s The Shack—and you should visit it. At his 26-seat restaurant in tiny Staunton, Virginia, Boden cooks with rip-roaring originality, walloping guests with flavor, bite after addictive bite. Some dishes you have to taste to believe: pretzel gemelli in French’s mustard sauce. He elevates the simplest of ingredients to their highest potential, mashing up his New York training with the foodstuffs of his adopted home. Boden’s technique is as flawless as his menu is daring and playful. And as much as we believe in him, Boden has even more faith in what Shenandoah Valley cuisine can be.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Pretzel Gemelli, Edward’s Surryano Ham, Mustard Sauce, and Wild Arugula Flowers
  • Schmaltz Aïoli, Grilled Okra, Fried Okra Greens, Pickled Okra Seeds, and Finger Limes
Chef: Austin Fausett, Trummer's on Main

He may be an adopted son, but Austin Fausett is a Virginia chef through and through. At Trummer’s on Main, he spends as much time planting and harvesting as he does in the kitchen, all to more deeply explore the region’s cuisine. From that rooted starting point, Fausett serves his guests the full spectrum of restraint and theater. Smoky grape gazpacho is subtle summer in a bowl, and a bone marrow whiskey luge is pure manly decadence. Fausett’s food and personality are vibrant, playful, and sometimes larger than life, and as he cooks up a Virginia storm, he’s carving out a regional—and national—identity for himself and the region that defines his food.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Duck, Foie Gras, Popcorn, Red Onion Marmalade, Wild Rice, Port, and Balsamic Reduction
  • White Grape Gazpacho, Smoked Grape Jam, Black Garlic Chips, Raw onions, White Muscatel grapes, and Silver Queen Corn

 

Chef: Michael Friedman, The Red Hen

The Red Hen is a modern-rustic Cathedral to classic Italian cuisine. It’s all due to the care and craftsmanship of Chef Mike Friedman, who’s making it cool to have grilled chicken on your menu again. Dining at The Red Hen is like being invited to a family feast, with Friedman at the head of the table, welcoming you with open arms, and feeding you fresh pastas till you have to sit back and loosen you belt. His creamy-dreamy sauces and slight of hand with spice are whole-heartedly soothing. The master of simplicity, Friedman is single-handedly making the case for straightforward, no-nonsense gastronomy.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Ricotta Cavatelli, Sugar Snap Peas, Smoked Bacon, Spring Onion, Pea Purée, Torn Basil, and Mascarpone
  • Mezze Rigatonni, Fennel Sausage Ragu, Pecorino Romano, and Parmigiano Reggiano
Chef: Lee Gregory, The Roosevelt

Chef Lee Gregory is celebrating the food of the South, taking the pedestrian and putting his charismatic spin on it. He cooks distinctly Virginia cuisine, starting with the basics—salt, pepper, acid, and some fat—and relying on execution, a modern sensibility, and an improvisational spirit to round out the rest. His food at The Roosevelt is refined, balanced, light, and clean Southern living. A feast à la Gregory is nothing short of extravagant decadence where pickled watermelon rinds goes swimming in beef tartare and blue fish reaches exalted heights. With his quiet ambition and focused vision, Gregory is getting to the heart of the culinary community in Richmond and influecing contemporary Southern cuisine beyond.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Wagyu Steak Tartare, Soft-cooked Egg, Squid Ink Bread Crumb, and Pickled Watermelon
  • Smoked Blue Fish, Raw Squash, Beets, Cucumber, and Tzatziki Dressing
Chef: George Marsh, Parts & Labor

At Parts & Labor, George Marsh is setting a new standard for charcuterie. And he’s doing it with soul, representing the often under-represented Mid-Atlantic, digging up traditions, and striving to define what Chesapeake cuisine means. His traditional hearth cooking and recipe resurrections (see: Lebanon bologna) reveal a deep belief in the interconnectivity of all things food. Beyond the thoughtfulness and intellectual pursuit of true regional cuisine, Marsh is also a good old-fashioned, badass butcher, breaking down animals for all of Chef Spike Gjerde’s Baltimore restaurants. He knows his way around a knife and a carcass and he’s not afraid to use them to change the way we see and eat meat.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Lebanon Bologna
  • Blood Sausage, Fried Egg, Hearth Toast, Pepper Jam, and Grilled Oregano
Chef: Matthew McGhee, RANGE

At RANGE, Matthew McGhee lives and breathes flavor and, with the restaurant doing close to 400 covers on an average weekend, he’s bringing his passion for cuisine to the masses. McGhee’s deceivingly matter-of-fact food comes teeming with taste—every last morsel is deliberate and every ingredient has been studied and turned over in his mind until it submits to his ultimate plan. His polished yet mischievous approach to modern American cuisine tugs at joyful childhood memories—first, pulling you in with a hint of the familiar, then jolting with a burst of lively imagination. From his 7,000 square-foot kitchen, McGhee is setting the standard for contemporary national cuisine.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Octopus, Lentils, Sprouted Wheat Berries, and Pistachio 
  • Chilled Garden Soup, Local Crab, Tequila, and Yuzu
Chef: Joe Palma, Bourbon Steak

Joe Palma’s pension for reinvention goes two-fold at Bourbon Steak. He’s taking his old-school French training, modern sensibility, and love affair with the South and packing it into a steakhouse menu. Meat is the main character at Bourbon Steak, but Palma has created an exemplary and intriguing supporting cast. He brings simple luxury to everything he does, adding furikake and shoyu to fluke and smoking beurre blanc. His vivid plates bring a laser-like focus to a single ingredient and let every other element bow to its glory. And his deep-rooted belief in simplicity reveals a restraint that’s transforming the little slice of Americana known as the steakhouse.

Dishes That Clinched It:

  • Fluke Crudo, Furikake, Golden Beets, Herb Jus, Baby Turnips, and White Shoyu
  • Sweet Pea Agnolotti, Smoked Beurre Blanc, Corn, Chanterelles, and Baby Lettuce

 

Chefs: Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver, Dutch & Company

Richmond Chefs Phillip Perrow and Caleb Shriver don’t cook Southern food. They are cooking in the South and use Southern ingredients for experimentation and inspiration, but their cuisine is born of their brain-trust and raised on spices that span the global pantry. The duo’s process begins with an idea—pine, wine, flowers—and develops through a back and forth that ends with them injecting duck liver mousse into gooseberries. At the end of it all, they’re running a good, honest restaurant that serves fine food—all from the tight confines of their tight Dutch & Company kitchen. But those confines are tight enough to hold in the influence of two chefs who are at the forefront of the Virginia culinary scene.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Perfect Egg: Rye Crusted Soft-Boiled Egg, Cured Salmon, Herbs, Sprouted Quinoa, Braised Red Cabbage, and Cumin Yogurt
  • Lamb Merguez, Roasted Turnips, Turnip Greens, Pickled Grapes, Mustard Seeds, Warm Yogurt Sauce, and Sub Rosa Bread
Chef: Graeme Ritchie, VOLT

The flavor doesn’t stop at VOLT. Because Graeme Ritchie doesn’t stop. For Ritchie, classic dishes are an invitation to jump into the deep-end and fashion a whole new world on his plates. He obsesses over details. A dish of sourdough, tomatoes, ricotta, capers, and olives is simple on the surface. It’s flavors are clear and resonant, but it belies the technical intricacies grafted onto each ingredient. Tweezer food gets redeemed, beatified, in his kitchen. Ritchie also has a natural penchant for taking concepts, as varied as Maryland summers or Japanese charcoal, and translating them for his diners. Ritchie’s imagination is boundless, and the fruit of no-holds-barred thinking (and constant refining) is one of the most inspiring dining experiences in Maryland.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • White Asparagus, Coconut Milk, Our Bay, Dashi, and Sea Urchin
  • Wagyu Beef Short, Rib Malt, Salsify, and Binchotan Hardwood
Chef: Aaron Silverman, Rose's Luxury

Aaron Silverman has guts. At Rose’s Luxury, his personal playground and outlet for his quirky imagination, he cooks that way, too. Silverman is the master of creating combinations others would not dare to dream. But it’s safe to say he’s cooking comfort food—just the type that simultaneously shocks and delights you. Strawberries find their way into pasta sauce and popcorn becomes soup. For all its wild gusto and cuisine-crossing maneuvering, the food at Rose’s emanates from a humbleness that comes straight from Silverman’s core. His mantra, “everything done perfectly imperfect,” represents the voice of a chef that transcends the confines of the nation’s capital.

Dishes That Clinched It:

  • Pork Sausage, Habanero-Lychee Salad, Whipped Coconut Milk, and Garlic Chips
  • Strawberry-Tomato Pasta, Ricotta, Black Pepper, Red Onion, and Chile Flakes
Chef: Joe Sparatta, Heritage

Joe Sparatta may come off as unassuming, but the depth of the man and his work in kitchen is helping Richmond earn its due in the culinary limelight. His dishes are as vibrant and colorful as the diverse traditions that inspire him. Sparratta combines global influences, time spent in some of the country’s most formidable kitchens, and his own story to form a contemporary style all his own. He treats products with reverence—curing, puréeing, and basting until he teases out everything they have to offer. In his hands, the simple becomes sublime and the usual, exceptional. He’s the kind of transformational chef who will influence and train the future leaders of Virginia’s food scene.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Local Flounder, Smoked Potato Butter, Spinach, Lemon, Caper, and “Brown Butter"
  • Basil Gemelli, Tasso Ham, Gulf Shrimp, Sungold Tomatoes, Chervil, and Corn

 

Chef: Johnny Spero, minibar by José Andrés

Johnny Spero is the ultimate scientist-chef. He’s at the helm of culinary innovation and all that’s avant-garde at minibar. Knowing when to push boundaries and when to push them further, his post-modern style expands minds course by course, delighting and thrilling as you go down the rabbit hole. With his funky, playful, and sophisticated food, Spero takes you by the taste buds on an epicurean journey through his imagination, where anticipation is high and revelation is guaranteed. With his deep-rooted belief in clean, uncomplicated flavors, Spero is defining what modern cuisine is in America.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Pesto-stuffed Fusilli Pasta, 63 Egg, Truffles, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts
  • Lamb, Whey-compressed Cucumbers, Whey Sauce, Milk Skin and Dill and Cucumber Blooms
Community: Mike Isabella, Mike Isabella Concepts

Mike Isabella is a chef’s chef. He knows how to give back as good as he gets. With a mini restaurant empire thriving in D.C, and stretching all the way to Jersey, Isabella is immersing himself in his larger community, and he’s doing it with a whole lot of gusto. From CARE and Share our Strength, to St. Jude's and Autism Speaks, Isabella is not only pushing himself to give, but is using his close relationships with the chef community to get more people involved in causes they believe in. And his industry take-over nights at Graffiato offer chefs a platform to share their ideas with the broader community. Whether as a member of the American Chef Corps or over a beer with his buds, Isabella is creating community through good food and good works.

Concept: Nathan Anda, Red Apron Butchery

Nathan Anda was born to cure meats, and his Red Apron Butchery is alive with the piquant scent of fermentation. Anda’s energy is kinetic. He enthusiastically nerds out researching the history of his trade, teasing rare finds out of temperature-controlled chests and (almost) ancient books. Anda’s approach is rooted in Italian charcuterie, but his style is an all-American mash-up. He bends tradition (and expectations) through endless experimentation and curiosity, using ingredients like Asian chiles and Fernet Branca to enliven his program. Anda is pushing butcher-shop boundaries, and with three outlets (and counting), he’s making Red Apron home base for artisan charcuterie in the region.      

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Porchetta de Testa
  • Assortment of Spalla Hams
Pastry Chef: Giane Cavaliere, VOLT

Giane Cavaliere is the one-woman wonder behind the pastry at Rogue 24. She approaches her desserts much like Monet and his water lilies—with thoughtful restraint, single-mindedness, and a vision. There are no rules in her personal atelier. Pop-rocks lay hidden under sage moss. Black sesame finds its way into wispy cake. Begonia flowers complete a study in strawberries. Textures blend seamlessly: crunchy almonds blur into balmy peppercorn foam and airy mousse. For all her outward serenity, a bite of her feminine, whimsically composed plates is a roaring ride for the senses. With her distinctive voice and just-do-it attitude, Cavaliere is well on her way to earning her rightful place among the American pastry greats.

Dishes That Clinched It:

  • Sour Cherries, Chocolate Textures, Cola Ganache, Pistachios, Sage Moss, and Pop Rocks
  • Black Sesame Chiffon, Coconut Ice, Yuzu Snow, Black Sesame Glaze, Yuzu Gel, Candied Sesame, and Snap Dragon Flowers
Pastry Chef: Sarah Malphrus, Woodberry Kitchen

Sarah Malphrus is daring in her simplicity. From snack-pack puddings to PB&Js, Malphrus’s desserts are heartfelt distillations of our collective childhood memories. Her flavors are quintessentially American and her plates are comforting and straightforward. But don’t be fooled. Everything Malphrus does has been carefully considered. She breaks her ideas apart completely, studies each individual element, makes it the best possible version of itself, and expertly builds it all back together. With her rustic aesthetic and technical sophistication, Malphrus is out to define new American pastry, and she’s setting the bar high.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Buttermilk Sherbet, Oat Granola, Sorghum, and Fresh Peaches
  • Peach-Blueberry Cobbler, Sweet Biscuit, and Goat's Milk Ice Cream

 

Roaster: Jay Caragay, Spro Coffee

On the tree-lined streets of Hampden, with its technicolored row-houses and funky shops, Roaster Jay Caragay is injecting new meaning into the song “Good Morning Baltimore.” At Spro, he’s roasting and brewing coffee that’s distinctive as the neighborhood itself. Among his nuanced selection, Caragay is selling coffee by vintage, aging green beans for seven months to seven years before roasting. Today, Caragay is creating his own rules, changing the parameters of what is possible, and handing you a cup of coffee that’s ahead of it’s time.

Brews that Clinched It:

  • Honey Macchiato: Espresso, Baltimore Honey, and Half and Half
  • Macchiato di Castagno: Espresso, Italian Chestnut Honey, and Half and Half
Brewers: Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey, 3 Stars Brewing Company

D.C. loves its beer, and 3 Stars Brewing Company is giving the city beer like they’ve never seen before. Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey are brewing big, loud beers, packing a ton of flavor and complexity into every brew. And they whole-heartedly embrace their Odd Couple relationship as a center point of their business plan. Initially self funded, they took a DIY approach to brewing and produced 1,000 barrels this past year on a repurposed dairy system. They even run a homebrew store out of the brewery, supporting the community and harking back to where they started.  With their focus on brewing American styles and their impressive barrel-aging program, Coleman and McGarvey are bringing serious style and much needed competition to the D.C. beer scene.

Beers that Cinched It:

  • Peppercorn Saison: Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale
  • Southern Belle: Imperial Brown Ale with Toasted Pecans 
Artisans: Evin Dogu and Evrim Dogu, Sub Rosa Bakery

Evrim Dogu and Evin Dogu are creating bread culture where there is none: Richmond, Virginia. At their Sub Rosa Bakery, the Dogus select regional and heirloom grains, stone-mill them, and produce breads and pastries that actually taste like whole grain (Abruzzi Rye has the aroma of honey and pepper). Working to spread the delicious word, they collaborate with chefs, farmers, breeders, and historians to recreate a lost culture. Sub Rosa also serves as an education hub, hosting traveling bakers and stagiaires. With quiet reassurance and the courage of their convictions, the Dogus are changing the way Richmond and the country understand breads and baking.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Sea Salt-Rosemary Pide Flat Bread
  • Charred Collard, Purslane, Spring Greens, and Feta Tart
Artisan: Benjamin Thompson, The Rock Barn

Benjamin Thompson has cooked in the refined kitchens of The French Laundry and at 1,600 feet underwater in the galleys of a submarine. Now, he’s in rural Arrington, Virginia, at the helm of The Rock Barn, where he has found his true calling in whole-hog butchery and all things cured. Thompson brings a chef’s mind to the ancient craft of charcuterie, and his precision and skills give him free rein to experiment—even within the strict rules that govern his USDA-certified shop. And his innovative Porkshare program is introducing the larger community to the glory (and value) of offcuts. Thompson proves that with vision, talent, and heart, you can cook and cure anywhere you want.

Dishes that Clinched It:

  • Spicy Okra Dog
  • Hickory Ham

 

Sommelier: Julie Dalton, Wit & Wisdom

Julie Dalton makes wine an entryway to an adventure. For her, the intrigue of wine is its ability to be a unifier, encompassing and connecting subjects as far ranging as weather, religion, taxonomy, and botany. She’s all about the textures in a wine: if it’s “crunchy or it sizzles” then she’s putting it on the top of her list—and also sipping it on her nights off. Dalton is happiest on the floor, bringing her electric intensity and sharing her passion with her guests. She is determined to make wine as accessible as possible to as many people possible, and it’s through this determination that she’s creating a whole new wine culture in Maryland.

Pairings that Clinched It:

  • Chesapeake Bay Fluke Sashimi, Cucumber Ponzu, Sriracha Ice Cream, Pickled Onions, and Radishes paired with Cinsault Rosé, Château des Deux Rocs, Coteaux du Languedoc, France, 2013
  • Piedmont Ridge Bone Marrow “Oscar”, Mushroom Jam, Old Bay Chips, Hollandaise Whipped Cream, Royal Glasage, Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, and Garden Soil paired with Chardonnay, Blanc de Blancs, Diebolt-Vallois, Cramant, Champagne, France NV
Sommelier: Brent Kroll, Neighborhood Restaurant Group

If wine is the Internet, then Brent Kroll is Google. A tableside encounter with this sommelier can you leave you spinning, but will also leave you sipping a wine you won’t soon forget. Just when you think you know exactly what you crave, he’ll pull out a full-bodied red from Croatia or a heritage wine from Greece. Most importantly, Kroll knows that a good pairing highlights the food, but a great pairing highlights the wine. Not impressed with swanky, high-end selections, Kroll knows that a bigger price tag does not promise a better wine. Kroll’s impeccable taste and penchant for surprise have guaranteed him his due on the D.C. somm scene.

Pairings that Clinched It:

  • Berkshire Cotechino, Grilled Foraged Mushrooms, Sherry Vinegar, and Dippy Egg paired with Nerello Mascalese, Tescante Ghiaia Nera, Tasca D’Almerita, Sicilia IGT, Sicily, Italy, 2011
  • Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Shell Beans, Hothouse Tomato and Anchovy paired with Torbato, Terre Bianche, Sella & Mosca, Alghero, Sardinia, Italy, 2012
Sommelier: Julian Mayor, Bourbon Steak

Julian Mayor is a classically trained chef, a veteran of restaurant management, a world traveler, and a lifelong student of wine. All these facets, plus Mayor’s quiet, confident manner, come together to create his mystique as the gentleman sommelier. Mayor believes that weight and texture are paramount in pairing, and brings these and other convictions to his wine list at Bourbon Steak, where the real stars are never what you’d expect. A search for the “nonexistent perfect pairing” is Mayor’s Holy Grail, and he continually seeks to push himself out of his comfort zone to find it, expanding the minds and palates of D.C.’s juice drinkers along the way.

Pairings that Clinched It:

  • Fluke Crudo, Furikake, Golden Beets, Herb Jus, Baby Turnips, and White Shoyu paired with Grüner Veltliner, Schloss Gobelsburg, Gobelsburger Steinsetz, Niederösterreich, Austria, 2011
  • Strawberry Gazpacho, Buttermilk Sorbet, Lemon Balm, Cucumber, and Pea Blossoms paired with Demi Sec Traditionelle, Margaine, Champagne, France, NV
Bartender: Bryan Tetorakis, Rogue 24

Bryan Tetorakis is a self-proclaimed cheftender. He rejoices in a Keyser Söze-style of experimentation, mixing the usual suspects with the most advanced tools of the trade—a rotary evaporator, liquid nitrogen tank, and a vacuum sealer to name a few. Tetorakis spends his time compressing grapes with green Chartreuse and fermenting pineapple for months, all in search of the supremely balanced (and ballsy) cocktail. His technical arsenal comes from years spent in the savory kitchen, and he composes and “plates” his drinks with a mise-en-place that far exceeds the standard cherry, olive, and lime. With one foot behind the line and one behind the bar, Tetorakis gives credence to culinary cocktails like few bartenders before him.

 

Drinks that Clinched It:

  • The Martyr: Belle Meade Bourbon, Fermented Pineapple, Cocchi Americano, Lime Juice, Piloncillo Syrup, Smoked Paprika Tincture, and Celery Ribbons
  • Cure: Bittermens Solståndet, Baby Carrot Juice, Orange Syrup, Lime Juice, Pacifique Absinthe, and Cardamom Tincture
Restaurateur: Derek Brown, Drink Company

Derek Brown is defining what it means to go out and grab a drink in D.C. Brown got his start as a bartender, and he’s now the mastermind behind Columbia Room, Eat the Rich, Mockingbird Hill, and Southern Efficiency. He brings effortless charm to all his watering holes, and he isn’t afraid to explore a concept: the classics at 10-seat Columbia, Sherry at Mockingbird, oyster shooters at Eat The Rich, and whiskey at Efficiency. His unwavering belief in his team is the real driving force behind his success—he excels at creating the right environment to let them explore their potential. His easy, no-fuss spots are polished and warm—and damn good fun. Brown knows how to take a concept, make it hip, and put it on the map.