News keeps flowing from the restaurant realm of Jeff Black. Following word that his company was closing Addieâ€™s in Rockville (in November) and opening Republic in Takoma Park (just this month) comes the announcement of a new executive chef at his popular BlackSalt in the Palisades.
Black calls Mike Huff â€śold school.â€ť Only 35, Huff is a 2003 graduate of Johnson & Wales University who went on to cook in the Washington area at Bob Kinkeadâ€™s Colvin Run Tavern in Tysons Corner and the seafood-themed Kinkeadâ€™s restaurant in the District. "I love the fact he runs BlackSalt the way I used to run it," says Black. "Heâ€™s brought more maturity, more seasoning, if you will."
Huff replaces Thomas Leonard, who left two months ago for Chicago.
The new top toque intends to make more of his own pastas and has already added to the menu at BlackSalt scallops with a saute of shaved Brussels sprouts, maitake mushrooms and house-cured pancetta, plus parsnip puree and potato gnocchi. â€śNo molecular gastronomy,â€ť promises the classically French-trained Fairfax resident.
For inspiration, Huff shops daily at what he refers to as a "playground:" the iced fish display in the front of BlackSalt. "Itâ€™s a chefâ€™s dream come true, honestly."
The trick to cooking fish? "Know your protein and how far you can take it," says Huff. No raw halibut or swordfish (because of parasites), he advises. But diners shouldnâ€™t ask for their tuna to be cooked past medium-rare. "It dries out tuna. You might as well open a can of Chicken of the Sea."
Huff turns out to be one of two family members working for Black. His brother, James Huff, oversees the kitchen at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace in Logan Circle.