The Park Hyatt Washington has hired a Texas-born, French-speaking, former Los Angeles chef to tend the wood-fired oven at Blue Duck Tavern in the West End. Sebastien Archambault, 36, succeeds Brian McBride, who recently left the hotel after 25 years to go into business with his longtime friend and fellow chef Robert Wiedmaier.
Archambault comes to Washington from L’Epicerie Market, a combination restaurant and food shop in Los Angeles that he both co-owned and cooked in. In her review of the establishment, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila called Archambault “an accomplished and soulful chef” whose cassoulet, among other dishes, offer “a real taste of southwest France.”
A professional friend of McBride’s for several years, the incoming chef says he was attracted to “the concept and design of the restaurant,” including its signature oven (the source of his favorite dish on Blue Duck’s current menu, roast chicken). The combination of a handsome and generous space, Archambault says, is “hard to find.”
Born in Lubbock, Texas, where his parents owned a small restaurant named Crepe Suzette, Archambault grew up in Le Bugue, France. The biggest influence in his restaurant career: the esteemed Jean-Francois Rouquette, who gave him his first job as chef de partie at Le Bourdonnais in Paris and who continued to mentor Archambault from job to job, including three years as the executive chef at Restaurant Champs-Elysees in Mexico City.
In town for a only a week now, Archambault says that he will take his time changing the restaurant’s script but that he plans to reach into his resume for inspiration. Eventually, he wants to serve his father’s recipe for duck confit as well as can food as he did back in southwestern France. Down the road, there will be ceviche, which Archambault served in Mexico. He also says he is looking forward to feeding an audience that will eat richer food. (Take that, Los Angeles!)
Chef de cuisine John Melfi will stay on as No. 2 at Blue Duck Tavern.