Richard Brandenburg leaves ThinkFoodGroup


A painting commissioned by Ernie Vales takes pride of place on the first floor of America Eats Tavern. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Richard Brandenburg, 37, has been hired by Edens & Avant, the giant East Coast real estate development company, to serve as its first director of culinary strategy.

Much of the chef’s focus will be on rethinking Capital City Market in Washington. Brandenburg hopes to stock the wholesale-retail center with multiple restaurants, a culinary school, even a USDA hub — “a fun mix,” he says. One of the models for the complex, which will bring together restaurants and distributors, is the esteemed, community-minded Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco.

While leaving ThinkFoodGroup and America Eats Tavern, which he helped conceive, is hard, Brandenburg says he’s excited for the opportunity to “influence hundreds of restaurants” through his new employer’s myriad projects. His goal is to bring the same commitment to quality — talent, ingredients, public access — as ThinkFood Group does.

Brandenburg, who starts his new gig next month, will remain in the city. “This is my home,” says the father of two, who served as Cafe Atlantico chef for three years. “Jose is part of my family,” he adds, referring to the Spanish empire-builder, Jose Andres, who at this point could practically go by one name.

In other news, ThinkFoodGroup has promoted Joe Raffa, the head chef at Oyamel , to culinary operations director for the restaurant company, which now counts 11 concepts in three U.S. markets. He will be replaced at Andres’s Mexican outpost by JohnPaul Damato, formerly the head chef of Jaleo in Bethesda.

See more photos from America Eats Tavern.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.

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