The Passenger and Columbia Room in search of chef

Derek Brown , the co-owner of two of Washington’s best-known watering holes, The Passenger and Columbia Room, is looking for someone who can whip up solids to match his liquids at the side-by-side bars near the convention center.

Javier Duran, Brown’s current chef, is leaving at the end of the month to be closer to his family in California.

While drinks have garnered the most attention at the establishments, the venues are “not just about cocktails,” says Brown, who owns the hot spots with his brother, Tom. Innovative food “is part of our mission,” the master mixologist says.

Customers of The Passenger’s late-day Hangover Brunch and the Columbia Room’s upscale snacks will agree. The latter recently featured spiced candied peanuts with dried cherries to accompany a wild cherry soda made with tart cherry juice, rye whisky, bitters and the current “it” ingredient for sodas: acid phosphate.

Candidates for the cooking job should have an interest in local ingredients, says Brown, and creating “bar food that matters.”

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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