BlackSalt reels in a new executive chef

December 11, 2013

News keeps flowing from the restaurant realm of Jeff Black. Following word that his company was closing Addie’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.

(Scott Suchman)
Mike Huff at BlackSalt. (Scott Suchman)

Black calls Mike Huff “old school.” Only 35, Huff is a 2003 graduate of Johnson & Wales University who went on to cook in the Washington area at Bob Kinkead’s Colvin Run Tavern in Tysons Corner and the seafood-themed Kinkead’s restaurant in the District. "I love the fact he runs BlackSalt the way I used to run it," says Black. "He’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. “No molecular gastronomy,” 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. "It’s a chef’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 shouldn’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.

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 · December 11, 2013