Chef changes at Brabo in Alexandria, plus a new restaurant headed for Dunn Loring

mcclure
Harper McClure. (Photo by Chad Smith)

When chef de cuisine Chris Watson gave his boss notice that he intended to leave Brabo and the Butcher’s Block in Alexandria to open an Italian restaurant, Robert Wiedmaier didn’t have to look far for a replacement. He tapped Harper McClure, his sous chef of several months at the French-themed Marcel’s in Washington.

“It’s hard to find good, talented cooks,” says Wiedmaier, echoing the sentiment of his peers in the market. “I’m lucky to get him back.”

The two chefs have some history: McClure briefly worked for Wiedmaier before he struck out on his own in 2011 to helm the Federalist in downtown’s Madison hotel. McClure left when the hotel changed owners last year.

In announcing the appointment, Wiedmaier praised the “young, energetic” McClure and noted his enhanced resume: “There’s a big difference between an independent restaurant and a hotel” kitchen.

Watson is leaving and McClure is officially taking over the multiple concepts in Old Town June 15. A fresh menu is expected to roll out within two months.

Watson hopes to introduce his 100-seat restaurant near the Dunn Loring Metro station in August. He’s calling it Ovvio, which is Italian for “obvious” and, the chef says, “exactly the kind of food I’ll be serving": straightforward Italian.

Wiedmaier says he and Watson, who has worked for him in different capacities for a decade, are parting on good terms. “After 10 years, he gave me plenty of notice — and I don’t have an Italian restaurant.”

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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Alex Baldinger | June 11, 2013