Chef shifts: Daniel Singhofen to Blue Duck Tavern, John Melfi to Fiola Mare

This post has been updated. 

No more “resting and getting fat” — his words — for Daniel Singhofen, who closed the offal-rich Eola in Dupont Circle in August after a four-year run. As of last Friday, he’s the new chef de cuisine at Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt in the West End.

(Courtesy Blue Duck Tavern)
(Courtesy Blue Duck Tavern)

Singhofen, one of four contenders for the position under Sebastien Archambault, calls his return to professional cooking “the right kitchen and the right circumstances.” His new boss says he was attracted to his hire’s local ties, relationship with farmers and vision.

Singhofen’s arrival was preceded by a new winter menu at Blue Duck Tavern. Trend alert: cushions are hot. Fresh attractions include seared foie gras served on a base of chocolate brioche with a garnish of orange confit, and steak tartare on a nest of hash browns presented with sunchoke chips. The chef de cuisine’s influence is expected to show up in the market catches and daily specials. In a nod to the inward-thinking Eola, Singhofen is considering adding stuffed trotters to a future list.

Singhofen replaces John Melfi, who has been tapped to work with chef Fabio Trabocchi at Trabocchi’s forthcoming seafood extravaganza, Fiola Mare, in Washington Harbour. Because the 7,500-square-foot project is being built from scratch -- a “soup to nuts” operation, Fabio Trabocchi calls it -- the owner says the restaurant is unlikely to open before spring. Reached at the site, co-owner Maria Trabocchi preached caution.

“I’m surrounded by a bunch of cables,” she said with a laugh.

In addition to Melfi, the staff at the seafood restaurant will include Paolo Novello, the opening assistant general manager of Per Se and Lincoln in New York, and John Gilbert, previously of Bourbon Steak in Georgetown.  They will serve as general manager and director of service, respectively.

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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