Chef John Critchley leaves Bourbon Steak to launch own place

By his own admission, chef John Critchley left Bourbon Steak rather abruptly, but he says he needed a break from kitchens, at least for a little while.

John Critchley has left Bourbon Steak after a year leading the kitchen at the Michael Mina restaurant. (Pfau Communications)
John Critchley has left Bourbon Steak after a year leading the kitchen at the Michael Mina restaurant. (Pfau Communications)

"It is pretty sudden," says the 37-year-old chef whose last day at the Georgetown steakhouse was March 23, "but I've been wanting to take some personal time ... It’s been a couple of decades since I’ve taken a little breather.”

The chef moved to Washington in late 2010 to take over the kitchen at Urbana, a Kimpton-run restaurant like Area 31 in Miami, where he cooked before heading north. Critchley and his wife had a son soon after they arrived in D.C., and the chef feels like he hasn't seen his son much between stints at Urbana and then Bourbon Steak. Critchley took over the latter kitchen last year, when celebrity chef Michael Mina announced that Adam Sobel was leaving the steakhouse at the Four Seasons.

But Critchley says he also has been quietly developing his own restaurant. He plans to take time off — maybe a month or two, while appearing at events like Lamb Jam at the Eastern Market in May —and then start working on his own concept. He says it's too early to reveal much, other than he plans to stay in the D.C. area. He says he misses working at independent restaurants, not a large group or hotel chain.

"I want to stay in the dynamic restaurant scene in D.C., which is growing and growing," says the Massachusetts native. "I look forward to staying a competitive chef in this area with some fun food."

To round out the kitchen while the Mina Group searches for Critchley's replacement, Bourbon Steak has temporarily brought back Jeffrey Hileman, executive chef at Mina's the Handle Bar near Jackson Hole, Wyo., which closes for a month on April 6 for the so-called spring "mud season." Hileman helped open Bourbon Steak in early 2009, says general manager Mark Politzer, and the chef is familiar with the operations. Executive sous chef Victor Pokorski, who also helped launch Bourbon Steak, will keep the kitchen humming as well, the GM says.

They're a "phenomenal team," Critchley says about the group he's leaving behind. “I’m not concerned about what they’re capable of doing."

Politzer praised Critchley's time at the steakhouse, calling him one of three "talented, amazing chefs" who have led the kitchen at Bourbon Steak. "He’s going to have an amazing career of ahead of him."

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires ingesting more calories than a draft horse.
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