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Behind the Scenes Look at our Selection of Washington DC Rising Stars 2006
November 2006

When StarChefs traveled to Washington DC to taste with the city’s top young chefs, we found a singular dominant trend; whether Irish, Belgian, Japanese, French or American, DC chefs embrace the idea of Modern American cuisine, finding inspiration from the local seasonal offerings of neighboring Virginia and Maryland. What makes our Rising Stars stand out? Each one crafts the local and seasonal ingredients to fit their strong culinary philosophy and tells a personal story with their menus. They are leaders in the vanguard of DC dining whether it’s bistro fare, cocktails, or fine dining, each one is taking chances to push their craft to the next level.

2006 Washington DC Rising Stars

2006 Washingtong DC Rising Stars on StarChefs.com
Click here for more information about the Washington DC Rising Stars Revue on December 13 at National Housing Center Atrium


CHEF: Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve
Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: The respect and love for farms developed in his Dublin childhood have carried over into Armstrong’s generous culinary philosophy. His self-described “pork fetish” and the Irish roots at the base of his culinary experience are showcased in decadent and playful dishes like Bacon, Egg, and Cheese. The dish makes full use of the versatility of pork fat with a cured and braised pork belly, seared to order, a tender crêpe with ham and leeks, and rich golden cheddar foam.

- Bacon, Egg and Cheese
- Carolina Black Bass with Orange-Braised Fennel


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CHEF: Tony Chittum, Dish and Notti Bianche
Tony Chittum of Dish and Notti Bianche on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Chittum grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and spent his youth fishing on the Chesapeake Bay. He brings innovative twists to seasonal Modern American cuisine but strives to bring a sense of comfort and ease to fine dining while maintaining elegance. His hot chowder froth, which complements a seasonal Maryland Rockfish, is his light and airy version of the classic clam chowder. Fried Middle Neck clams and simple glazed potatoes, leeks and celery complete the dish.|

- Rockfish with Celery, Clams, and Chowder Froth
- Malfatti with Porcini, Mascarpone and Parmiggiano Reggiano Cracker

CHEF: Tony Conte, The Oval Room
Tony Conte of The Oval Room on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: As Executive Sous Chef of Jean Georges, Conte worked closely with Vongerichten and adopted the concept of simplicity. At The Oval Room, Conte applies his refined sensibility in simple yet daring and composed dishes, creating unlikely pairings like horseradish and beetroot for successful bursts of clean flavor.

- Tuna, Chipotle, Avocado and Crispy Tapioca
- Roasted Baby Beets, Passion Fruit Gelée, Horseradish and Ice Wine Mignonette

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CHEF: RJ Cooper, Vidalia
RJ Cooper of Vidalia on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Cooper is a gregarious chef with a dynamic personality who loves talking motorcycles and food. His Modern American philosophy shines through in dishes like Truffled Heirloom Potatoes with Garlic Cream, Crispy Pork Belly and Juniper-Infused Sea Salt, where Cooper uses a delicate hand to transform ordinary potatoes and pork belly into a composed and elegant dish. While keeping things fresh and modern, it’s clear from the juniper-scented salt, reminiscent of a classic French cure, and the smooth-as-silk garlic cream, that Cooper’s schooling is grounded in the fundamentals of classic French cooking.

- Beaver Creek Farm Quail with Chestnut, Wild Rice and Apple Stuffing, Boudin Blanc, Brussels Sprouts, and Blue Plum Mustard
- Truffled Heirloom Potatoes with Crispy Pork Belly, Garlic Cream and Juniper-Infused Sea Salt

CHEF: Katsuya Fukushima, Café Atlantico and Minibar
Katsuya Fukushima of Café Atlantico and Minibar on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: With his boundless curiosity and unwillingness to allow culinary conventions to stand in the way of evolution, Fukushima has managed to turn his kitchen at Café Atlantico into one of the most innovative in the country. Inspired by Jose Andres’ comment that the first three seconds of tasting a food have the greatest impact, Fukushima has taken on the Wonka-esque project of developing a meat-flavored chewing gum. While experimenting with every available product and tool to improve on classic dishes and develop new ones, Fukushima serves playful and personal compositions like his Taste of India Chicken Wing, a bar snack inspired by the chicken wing cooked in a cryovac and carefully de-boned at el Bulli.

- Taste of India Chicken Wing
- Organized Salad with Cabrales and Raspberries

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CHEF: Barton Seaver, Café Saint Ex and Bar Pilar
Barton Seaver of Café Saint Ex and Bar Pilar on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Seaver’s belief in the minimal changing of high-quality, responsibly-sourced ingredients comes through in dishes like a barely manipulated, lightly garnished Walu with Sweet Potato Purée and Orange Parsley Salad. Beginning with sustainable Walu (or white tuna), and using no more than lemon, chili and parsley to highlight the fish’s inherent flavor, Seaver builds a simple and delicious dish with smoke-infused water rather than a traditional heavy stock or butter. In an age of reckless fishing, Seaver is one of the few chefs in the country who strictly serves sustainable fish and practices serious conscientiousness when sourcing his products.

- Toasted Almond and Garlic Soup with Grilled Radicchio
- Jalapeno-Crusted Walu with Sweet Potato Purée and Orange Parsley Salad

CHEF: Bart Vandaele, Belga Café
Bart Vandaele of Belga Café on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: As Executive Chef of Belga Café in DC, Vandaele acts as a Belgian culinary ambassador, using American and Asian ingredients to build dishes that celebrate the rich history of Belgian cuisine and beer. His unconventional beer pairings and use of beer throughout the cooking process result in culturally and flavorfully rich dishes. His Endive Sushi begins with the boiling of the classic Belgian vegetable in nutmeg and curry-scented water. The Belgian endive is marinated classically but then wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma and finished with an unconventional orange-cardamom gelée and flying fish roe.

- Belgian Endive Sushi with Prosciutto di Parma, Baby Arugula Salad and Orange Cardamon Gelée
- Venison with Couscous Waffle and Truffles

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CHEF: Noriaki Yasutake, Perry’s
Noriaki Yasutake of Perry’s on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: After making his first hand-roll at age seven, Yasutake was hooked and spent years cultivating the craft with his family in Japan before deciding it was time to hone his craft in the States. Yasutake is inspired by kitschy flavor combinations and local products from the DC area, like Old Bay, and enjoys playfully incorporating the idea or ingredient into his Japanese framework. His Fish and Chips Roll expresses his distinct sushi-making style of making Japanese raw fish accessible and fun, beginning with a crispy tempura batter intensely flavored with dashi, rolled in fragrant shiso and nori and topped with a quenelle of fluke tartare. The roll is garnished with a wasabi tartar sauce sweetened with pickled ginger rather than the traditional chopped cornichons.

- Smoked Toro with Wasabi Gelée and Watermelon
- Fish and Chips Roll


CHEF: Eric Ziebold, CityZen
Eric Ziebold of CityZen on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: It’s clear during a meal at CityZen that Ziebold has thought out every detail of the dining experience, from the minutia of the bread service which he serves in cigar boxes inspired by a thrift store find, to the starring main dishes. Ziebold’s eight years with Thomas Keller provided invaluable experience with one of the best chefs in the country, and an insight into American fine dining. In DC he showcases his particular style of Modern American with inspired creations like Foie Gras Shabu Shabu, a French influenced, Asian-inspired dish where the foie gras is poached tableside.

-Tartiflette of Yukon Gold Potato Mille Feuille with Frisée Lettuce, Crispy Shoat Confit and Warm Brillat Savarin
- Foie Gras Shabu Shabu
- The Mini Parker House Rolls

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PASTRY CHEF: Heather Chittum, Dish and Notti Bianche
Heather Chittum of Dish and Notti Bianche on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Chittum enjoys building simple desserts that play with sweet and savory seasonal ingredients from local farmers. In dishes like her Big City ‘Smores, the architectural sensibility learned from mentor Richard, and the simple, homey appeal of Lisa Scruggs’ desserts come together in a playful recreation of the American campfire snack. A shot glass of milk is presented next to a sophisticated tower of bittersweet chocolate and chocolate mousse, bruléed marshmallow fluff, all balancing on a buttery tart shell.

- Big City ‘Smores
- Pipes Dreams Goat's Milk Cheesecake with Cherry Compote and Almond Florentine



PASTRY CHEF: Hichem Lahreche, Kinkead’s
Hichem Lahreche of Kinkead’s on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Lahreche’s appetite for knowledge and commitment to the scientific method best define his passionate pastry philosophy. His desserts reflect this passion, but keep in mind classic French flavors and techniques while lightening and rethinking them for the Modern American diner. In desserts like the Hazelnut Suprême, Lahreche uses small touches like a few cubes of intensely flavored coffee gelée and airy chocolate crémeux to rework and lighten a classic French flavor profile.

- Hazelnut Suprême
- Pineapple Tatin with Lemon Chibouste

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PASTRY CHEF: Tom Wellings, Maestro
Tom Wellings of Maestro on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Wellings has a simultaneously sensual and intellectual approach to food. He seems to deconstruct flavor profiles and rebuild them in unexpected and always successful ways. His point of view when it comes to the ideas of hot versus cold, soft versus crisp and flavors, knows no limits. Wellings defines his distinctive style with dishes like his deconstructed “Tiramisu.” The dish is a study in the classic Italian dessert with added textural impact and intensified flavors. The mascarpone normally folded into a cream is frozen into a smooth sorbet while the coffee flavor imparted to the ladyfingers is made into a sweet and salty crumble and concentrated syrup. A crisp cocoa tuile and concentrated amaretto jelly complete the intensified flavor profile of a tiramisu.

- Milk Chocolate Crema with Chicory Powder
- “Tiramisu”


BAR CHEF: Todd Thrasher, Resturant Eve and The PX
Nadine Brown of Charlie Palmer Steakhouse on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Thrasher adopts the spirit of innovation and alta cocina attitude to mixology, incorporating foams, hot and cold airs and techniques from the savory kitchen to create cocktails. While his favorite drink to sip on is a classic Captain Morgan and Coke, the whimsical and layered cocktails that Thrasher composes range from retro favorites like Pick Your Onion Gibson and the Bittersweet Gin Fizz that feature Thrasher’s home-made tonic water. Never one to rest in his comfort zone, Thrasher is experimenting with cocktails that go beyond liquor, marrying liquor and wine in drinks that change with the season’s available fruits and vegetables.

- Eamonn’s Cocktail

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SOMMELIER: Nadine Brown, Charlie Palmer Steakhouse
Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve and the PX on StarChefs.comWHAT MAKES THIS RISING STAR SHINE: Brown has a drive and determination that really sets her apart; she is pursuing her Master Sommelier degree with the Court of Master Sommeliers. At Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, she matches Bryan Voltaggio’s cuisine with sophisticated American wines. Some of her favorite matches include an inky Russian River Syrah with Voltaggio’s slow-braised short ribs, and a sparkling rosé with a simple, seared foie gras. She rises to the challenge of navigating the all-American wine list and veering guests whose preferences lie with Old World wines towards an American bottle comparable in quality and taste. Brown also plans to record CDs teaching the proper pronunciation of wines, grapes, and regions.

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