Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr has been tight-lipped about his plans to open a French-bistro-style restaurant on 14th Street. For months there was a lot of back and forth as to whether the project was even happening. Then last fall, Washington Business Journal’s Missy Frederick confirmed that a lease had been signed at the corner of 14th and Q streets for a 7,000-square-foot space.
Now it seems plans are moving forward, because we just spotted this Craigslist ad from the Starr Restaurants seeking a general manager for the new Washington, DC, location. Team players, “driven people,” and those equipped with “satisfaction excellence”—whatever that is—get your résumés ready: It looks like we’ll have a Starr spot arriving in the not-too-distant future.
It's a cold and blustery day out there, but you'll find plenty of warm eats at L'Enfant and Metro Center, and other trucks are braving the chill throughout the city.
“I think it's pretty gutsy for someone to try and feed me pasta,” said Giada De Laurentiis, her voice crackling slightly thanks to a sinus infection.
The Food Network's queen of Italian cuisine had just left the stage at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show. Held this past weekend at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, it is the sort of event where vendors hand out samples of pepper jack cheese and jam and tiny sausages to suburban couples getting a jump on their Christmas shopping. Behind a labyrinth of black curtains, attendees watched De Laurentiis and fellow Food Network personalities Guy Fieri (bleached hair, bowling shirts) and Paula Deen (butter) demoing dishes from a large, brightly lit stage.
So who would have the gall to serve gnocchi to the Everyday Italian lady? That would be Mike Isabella, Top Chef alum and owner of the recently opened Graffiato in Chinatown, where De Laurentiis and her agent spent Saturday night gorging themselves on the potato-filled pasta, along with chestnut-filled mezzalunas; handmade spaghetti with cherry tomato, garlic, and basil sauce; crispy goat; chicken with cranberry sauce; and pumpkin-filled zeppole (doughnutlike pastries).
Who: Douglas Hernandez, pastry chef at Bibiana.
Why we chose him: A high level of craftsmanship goes into his desserts—his bomba is crafted with six chocolate elements.
Also worked at: Le Cirque, Lutèce, and La Grenouille in New York City; Central Michel Richard in DC’s Penn Quarter.
Childhood memory: “I couldn’t watch a lot of TV, but when I did it was mostly Julia Child and Jacques Pépin on PBS.”
Where he’d be if not wearing a chef’s hat: “Playing the alto saxophone.”
Memorable meal: “I recently did a tasting by myself at WD-50 in New York. I walked in at 11:30 pm and grabbed the last table to see Wylie Dufresne’s interpretation of food, sitting there with my eyes closed, tasting each bite.”
Post-work drink: “Cold Dr Pepper.”
Late-night snack: “Chinese food from New Big Wong in Penn Quarter. I get the General Tso’s chicken and crispy fried pork chops.”
Stimulant of choice: Jack3d energy drink.
Who:Travis Olson, pastry chef at 1789.
Why we chose him: He pushes the old-guard restaurant’s boundaries with lighthearted sundaes and ice-cream sandwiches, and he throws in surprises such as cardamom funnel cake.
Also worked at: DC Coast and Clyde’s.
Guilty pleasure: “Tofutti Cuties ice-cream sandwiches. My girlfriend brought home a box.”
Where he’d be if not wearing a chef’s hat: “Maybe making moonshine.”
Favorite cookbook: “Edna Lewis’s early books—not necessarily for the pastry but for the older approach to cooking when recipes weren’t so important.”
Favorite kitchen gadget: “I’m into hand tools—anything that puts me in control—instead of anything with an electric motor. I really want an oil press for nuts and seeds. Supposedly you can build one from a car jack.”
Favorite pie: “I used to do a cream pie at Clyde’s of Gallery Place that married the top three cream pies. It was a coconut crust with chocolate pudding, grilled and flambéed rum bananas, and whipped cream."
Who: Tiffany MacIsaac, pastry chef at Birch & Barley
Why we chose her: Childhood favorites (oatmeal cream pies, Hostess cupcakes) get a gourmet upgrade, and she puts together one of the area’s best bread baskets.
Hometown: Haiku, Hawaii.
Also worked at: Union Square Café and Cru in New York City.
Childhood memory: “A Japanese lady would sell creamsicles and pudding pops on the beach. My sister would get one and I’d get the other, and we’d go halvsies. Now I always have a pudding pop on my cookie plate.”
Food epiphany: “I turned 18, moved to New York, and got my first job as a hostess. I was scared to go in the kitchen. One day they cooked a tasting menu for me, and I realized food wasn’t just to fill your stomach.”
Guilty pleasure: “Laffy Taffy. No one ever has it, so when I see it, I get like 30 and keep them in my purse.”
Who: Anthony Chavez, Pastry Chef at 2941
Why we chose him: His pairing of old-school French techniques and playful touches makes for artful but approachable desserts.
Hometown: Santa Ana, California.
Also worked at: Ritz-Carlton in Chicago.
Unofficial culinary education: “When I was 14, I worked in a concessions stand at a water park making funnel cakes—just to get my foot in the door.”
Favorite cheap eat: “I’ll eat barbecue all day every day. I like Willards in Chantilly.”
Memorable meal: “I ate at Per Se three years ago and had the best desserts I’ve ever had. The tray of chocolate candies at the end was like being at the jewelry shop and being presented with a tray of diamonds.”
Always in his home fridge: “Deer meat that I’ve shot and butchered with my father-in-law, bread from the restaurant, and 2-percent milk.”
Favorite doughnut: “Cake doughnuts with toasted, candied coconut at Dunkin’ Donuts.”