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they looooooove DC.

September 21, 2008

Allain Ducasse

MY SOURCE

Απο το αρθρο της Washington Post την περασμενη Τεταρτη.  Η πρωτευουσα των ΗΠΑ δεν ειναι πολη παραδοσης οπως η Βοστωνη ουτε καταξιωμενη στον κοσμο της γαστρονομιας οπως η Νεα Υορκη.  Ειναι μια πολη περαστικων γερουσιαστων και πολλων τουριστων.  Ετσι αντιμετωπιζοντας την λοιπον, πολλοι γνωστοι chefs αποφασιζουν να της δωσουν μια ευκαιρια να απολαυσει τις γαστριμαργικες  τους προτασεις. Μπορει και να δοκιμασουμε καινουργιες νοστιμιες φετος!

Celebrity chefs are opening outposts in Washington in droves. Is that a good thing for the city’s restaurant scene?

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 17, 2008; Page F01

When Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant at the St. Regis opened last week, Tom Daschle was spotted on the first night. Comedian Chevy Chase popped in for lunch. Washingtonian magazine dining editor Todd Kliman was so excited about Adour that he wrote his first-ever “real-time restaurant review,” made up of more than 100 updates on Twitter, a micro-blogging service.

The clear message: Alain Ducasse’s arrival in Washington is a big deal.

Ducasse is a culinary legend, with 26 restaurants and 14 Michelin stars to his name. And he is one of a half-dozen name-brand chefs to set their sights on Washington: Charlie Palmer of Aureole fame led the way a few years ago with Charlie Palmer Steak, followed last fall by the Source by Wolfgang Puck at the Newseum and Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert, the famed chef of New York’s Le Bernardin. In December, San Francisco talent Michael Mina will open Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons. And if rumors prove true, foulmouthed British chef Gordon Ramsay will take over the restaurant formerly known as Maestro at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.

All of which raises a few questions: Why here? Why now? And will these chefs turn Washington into the Las Vegas of the East, with outposts of the best international chefs overshadowing a homegrown restaurant culture?

Washington might not seem an obvious place for such high-profile chefs. This, after all, is a city of power brokers who favor restaurants such as Georgetown’sCafe Milano or the Palm, known more for who’s at the bar than what’s on the plate, and short-timers who tend to have conservative tastes. As longtime Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman once observed, “When a North Carolina lobbyist and an Iowa legislator want to get acquainted, steak is a language both understand.”

Those traits also make Washington an ideal place for nationally known chefs, says New York restaurant consultant Clark Wolf. The transient nature of Washington’s population makes it hard for local chefs to build loyalty; their regulars disappear every two, four or eight years. Even lifelong Washingtonians tend not to have the same allegiance that you find in, say, Boston, where patronizing an out-of-town chef’s restaurant is the equivalent of cheering for the Yankees. In Washington, Wolf says, “if you are a well-known chef, you have a broader base.”

Hotels have taken note, and, with the exception of Puck’s Source, they are behind the new deals. A hot restaurant helps attract tourists and business travelers who might know the chef from another city. More important, it helps bring in locals who can be turned into regulars, the lifeblood of any restaurant. Washington diners, in particular, are an attractive demographic. According to 2007 Census data, the Washington area includes four of the richest counties in the country. The top three, Loudoun, Fairfax and Howard, list median incomes more than twice the U.S. average of $50,740.

Terms of the deals vary. Some chefs lease a space and manage their own staff. But most are so-called management contracts. The chef creates the concept and menu, provides an executive chef and lends his name in exchange for a signing bonus and a percentage of the profits. The hotel pays for the build-out and manages the staff in exchange for the chef’s expertise and ability to create buzz. According to Wolf, brand-name chefs bring in 2.5 to 4.5 times the revenue of an unknown restaurateur.

A case in point is Westend, at the Ritz-Carlton in Northwest. The transformation from hushed dining room to buzzy bistro bumped restaurant revenue up 50 percent and profits up 10 percent. For Ripert, the hotel’s day-to-day management allows him to focus on Le Bernardin. “The strong support of the Ritz lets us have the product we want,” says Ripert, who also has restaurants in Ritz-Carlton properties on Grand Cayman and in Philadelphia.

The deals could change as the economy stumbles. Hotels might cut back on up-front bonuses or decree that payment be linked to results. But Clark predicts that the partnerships will continue, though perhaps at a slower pace.

Chefs insist the deals are about more than money, however. In interviews, each professed profound affection for Washington: Ripert’s first job in the United States was under Jean-Louis Palladin. Ducasse, too, was a longtime friend of the late Watergate chef. Mina is close to Michel Richard. Palmer simply likes Washington. “I don’t open in places I don’t want to go visit,” he says.

There’s some truth to their reasoning. With restaurants around the globe, star chefs have the luxury of choosing cities they enjoy and are easy to get to. Ducasse, for example, is in New York twice a month, so flying to Washington to check in is a cinch. Washington’s proximity to New York also helps assure smooth management. If something goes wrong, says Laurent Plantier, chief executive of the Groupe Alain Ducasse, it’s easy to fly down a New York-based pastry chef or floor manager.

Chefs are adamant that their Washington outposts won’t be cookie-cutter versions of their sibling restaurants. The ambiance at the Washington Adour, for example, is almost celestial, with floods of natural light, shimmering gold alcoves and crystal orb chandeliers, a stark contrast to the more serious burgundy tones and burled wood of the Adour in New York, which also opened this year. Mina deliberately hires a different designer for each new Bourbon Steak (he has them in Detroit, Miami and Scottsdale, Ariz.).

The menus also stand apart. Bourbon Steak will serve lunch and dinner, meaning whoever takes the helm of the kitchen will be able to serve lighter fare that doesn’t appear on dinner-only menus. Ducasse says Adour, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is “more accessible than the New York location. And though only Ducasse could call $25 to $46 entrees accessible, there is a $15 croque-monsieur on the lunch menu, and the sommelier will open any bottle of wine under $100 to serve by the glass. “The quality and the soul of the food will be consistent, but our goal is to harmonize with our clients and their taste,” he says. “With Adour, we’re not trying to impose our ideas. It’s a proposition.”

Restaurant insiders are optimistic that the celebrity invasion will bolster Washington’s dining scene without turning it into Vegas. “The fact that all these chefs are coming lends credibility,” says Cathal Armstrong, executive chef at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria. Long-term, people will see Washington as a restaurant destination, he says, where tourists plan not only which museums to visit but where to eat.

The explosion of high-end restaurants also could improve Washington dining for several less-obvious reasons. First, it stands to help make hard-to-find ingredients more readily available, even to the local independent places. Although Washington chefs have access to a wide variety of produce and meats, it’s harder to get exclusive items such as caviar, truffles and specialty fish. But chefs such as Palmer, Puck, Ducasse and Mina have strong relationships with suppliers, place large orders and won’t settle for leftovers. “No matter how hard I try or how much I’m willing to pay — even when I say I don’t care what it costs — I can’t get Dublin Bay prawns,” Armstrong says. “Maybe that will be different. It could open up new markets.”

It also could make it easier for the city to retain talented cooks. In the past, an ambitious chef could start in Washington but had to go elsewhere to take his skills to the next level. Young cooks starting out will have the opportunity to work for local celebs Michel Richard and José Andrés (who are making their own hotel deals in other cities) as well as Ducasse and Mina.

Finally, critics and patrons hold name-brand chefs to exalted standards. And though the chefs no longer even pretend to be in the kitchen, it’s their name on the door.

Palmer learned that when he opened on Capitol Hill in 2003. Early reviews were mixed, and critics complained about amateurish service. On Adour’s opening night, Washingtonian’s Kliman was impressed but noted that “at these prices, and with this pedigree, I would have liked to have seen more in the way of risk.”

Earning a warm welcome is a challenge, Palmer says. “If you’re a homegrown Washington boy, you get a little encouragement. If you are a New Yorker or Michelin-starred chef from France who is there for opening night and doesn’t come back for six months, it better be good.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. panathinaeos permalink
    September 21, 2008 1:15 pm

    φαίνεται λοιπόν ότι η Ντι Σι αλλάζει! όταν έχα έρθει – πάνε σχεδόν 20 χρόνια! – είχα πάει σε κάτι εστιατόρια στην τζωρτζταουν, χωρίς να με έχει εντυπωσιάσει κάτι, ά ναι, και στην αλεξάνδρεια της βιρτζίνια (αν θυμάμαι καλά).
    το νέο εστιατόριο του ντικας ακούγεται σαν μια σημαντική πρόκληση, διερωτώμαι άν έχεις επισκεφθεί το εστιατόριο του Puck.
    και βέβαια θα ήταν ενδιαφέρον να μας πεις ποια είναι τα καλύτερα 10 εστιατόρια της Ντι Σι στο δικό σου τεφτέρι!

  2. September 21, 2008 4:00 pm

    Αγαπητε Παναθηναιε, κατα καιρους και παλιοτερα οταν ημουν στον blogger και ειχα τη σελιδα Tavola Bianca αναφερομουν στα εστιατορια της περιοχης. H Georgetown ειναι κατ’εξιχην τουριστικη και , αν και βελτιωμενη τα τελευταια χρονια παλι δεν προσφερει υψηλη γαστρονομια. Εδω που τα λεμε εχει κατι ωραια γαλλικα μπιστρουδακια που ειναι πολυ του γουστου μου. Ουτε η Αλεξανδρεια εχει τιποτα τρομερα σημαντικο. Στον Wolfgang Puck δεν εχω παει. Χειμωνας ερχεται, θα επισκεφτω μερικα και θα γραψω εν καιρω.

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