B. Smith’s in Union Station never entertains 200 reservations on a Monday night. But after executive chef Rock Harper was interviewed on Fox News yesterday morning, in anticipation of his showdown last night on the finale of the kitchen reality show Hell’s Kitchen, the restaurant’s phones were ringing off the hook. Receptionist Bernie Goatley couldn’t keep up. Before the Fox piece, she remembers only 50 reservations in the book (still a lot for a Monday). By late afternoon, that number had quadrupled.Starting at 5 PM, fans of the Spotsylvania, Virginia-raised chef enjoyed a $35 Hell’s Kitchen-themed menu, which included three options for each course. Harper had fun coordinating his dishes with what he made on the show. The Southern Surf and Turf—fried chicken and crab cakes, which Harper’s assistant, Josh, tragically burned on the air—was on the menu, as was the fun-loving Milk and Cookies (vanilla milkshake with house-made oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies). When the show came on at 9, diners cleaned up their plates and piled into a special room of big-screen TVs, brought in for the night. Of course, the party turned to mayhem when Hell’s Kitchen boss Gordan Ramsay finally decided that Los Angeles chef Bonnie Muirhead (and her fettuccine and prawns) just weren’t good enough and Harper was crowned the third-season winner.
“He’s one of the most genuine people in the industry,” says James Page, who will replace his mentor at B. Smith’s. Page doesn’t believe for a second that television hype will go to Harper’s head. The staff expects the now-celeb chef to return this afternoon—he’s scheduled to spend the week training Page before he assumes the winner’s position (and $250,000 salary) as head chef at Nevada’s Green Valley Resort. Check out clips of Rock leading his team last night as well as a postshow feature in which runner-up Bonnie talks about breast implants.
B. Smith’s, Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave., NE; 202-289-6188; bsmith.com.