• Last Sunday, R.J. Cooper, the former chef of Vidalia, competed on Iron Chef America. Marc Forgione, who just joined the Iron Chef crew after wining the reality show The Next Iron Chef, beat Cooper in the battle (the secret ingredient was peppers). We caught up with pastry chef David Guas, one of Cooper’s sous chefs, to find out what it’s like in Kitchen Stadium. Cooper is currently working on Rogue 24, a restaurant in DC’s Shaw.
• Palena has expanded into the adjacent space, formerly a Magruder’s grocery store. Scott Reitz shot some photos for the Washington City Paper. The informal cafe now has 100 seats, and the back dining room lost six chairs. Chef Frank Ruta’s kitchen, which moved up from its tiny downstairs space, is bigger and has a new wood-fired oven—the cooking vessel for his famed roast chicken.
• Top Chef season-six runner-up Bryan Voltaggio, owner of the wildly popular Volt in Frederick, has plans to open a second restaurant. His spokeswoman told Missy Frederick of the Washington Business Journal that Voltaggio hasn’t signed a lease. Voltaggio talked to the Frederick News Post, and while he won’t release any more details, he said that it’ll be a “concept pretty unique to downtown Frederick.”
• Today is writer Tim Carman’s last day at the Washington City Paper. He’s heading to the Washington Post food section to fill a seat vacated recently by Jane Black, who left to write a book. There’s no word yet as to who will replace Carman.
• Farrah Olivia, chef Morou Ouattara’s very modern Alexandria restaurant that closed last year, is getting a second life. On Twitter, he wrote that he’ll “reopen” it in the private dining room at Kora, his red-sauce Italian joint in Crystal City. Dinners, which will be held four nights a week, start January 5.
• Melissa McCart of NBC’s The Feast writes that expansion plans for José Andrés’s six-seat Minibar have been put on hold while the chef works on projects in Paris and Mexico City. After tonight’s Minibar service, he’s closing it until January 11 so his chefs can work on his two new Las Vegas restaurants, both slated to open December 31.
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