It was two days before Christmas that Evan Griffin learned from his coworkers at Quench that he was being let go from his executive chef role at the Rockville restaurant and bar. He confronted owner Michael Holstein, says Griffin, who told him the decision was “strictly financial. ‘I have a group of people who want to run the kitchen as if it were their own business,’” Griffin recalls Holstein saying. Along with Griffin, Holstein dismissed sous chef Brandon Shapiro and the restaurant’s pastry chef, Kelly Johnson.
Taking over the kitchen is Wade Hoo Fatt, formerly of Todd Gray’s Equinox and Watershed. Fatt will also be a partner in the restaurant, says Holstein. While the first-time restaurateur praises Griffin’s cooking prowess, he says he was looking for a toque who could help him develop a catering program and create a “more universal” menu that would translate to other markets—Holstein says he is in talks with a Las Vegas casino to bring a Quench concept to that city, and he has also explored opportunities in Northern Virginia. With his substantial catering experience—Fatt is a vet of famed local caterer Susan Gage—the new chef is “well-suited to helm the ship,” says Holstein.
When Quench originally debuted in March 2012, the idea was to bring the sort of cocktail bar and restaurant you would find in the city to the Rockville suburbs. While Holstein says that remains the mission, Griffin claims his boss kept “requesting menu items that you would find on an Applebee’s menu, like protein-based salads with boneless skinless chicken breast.” He says he and Holstein butted heads as the “concept got watered down.” These comments echo those of Steve Oshana—the original beverage manager, dismissed a week after the opening. Original head chef Richard Gunter was dismissed in July. “No slight to Rich, but Evan’s vision was much more in line with what our customers want,” Holstein told us at the time.
Joining Fatt in the kitchen is chef de cuisine Chris Mack, formerly of Policy. Holstein says he is also partnering with Todd and Ellen Gray on a cocktail catering project. Holstein shared this working version of Quench’s new menu.