Some Heavy Lifting Installs a Showcase Range in Its New Home

Executive chef Brian McBride on the day he fired up the new Molteni range in the Park Hyatt's Blue Duck Tavern.
Executive chef Brian McBride on the day he fired up the new Molteni range in the Park Hyatt's Blue Duck Tavern. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Walter Nicholls
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

For two days recently, a large wooden crate containing a gleaming, cobalt blue-enameled stove with a price tag of $180,000 sat on the pavement on 24th Street NW in the West End.

The Park Hyatt Washington's construction team couldn't figure out how to get the unwieldy, 5,400-pound, 18-by-6-foot Molteni (pronounced MOLE-ten-ee) commercial range into the Blue Duck Tavern, which is scheduled to open for dinner on Friday.

In the end, a Manassas rigging firm was brought in. With a series of small cranes, the impressive range, which took 12 technicians six weeks to build in Saint-Vallier, France, was set in place in the open kitchen that flows into the 106-seat, modern/American Craftsman-style dining room conceived by New York designer Tony Chi.

"It's a monster -- one incredibly sleek machine," executive chef Brian McBride said as he fired up one of the six brass stovetop burners.

McBride worked for 19 years in the hotel's far less glamorous kitchen, which served the former Melrose restaurant. The hotel has been closed for nearly a year for a near-total renovation costing $24 million.

McBride's new stove is named for the Provencal stove maker Joseph Molteni, who went into business in 1923, and is favored by many top European chefs. Manufactured from cast iron and brushed steel, each stove is custom-built to the chef's specifications.

In addition to the six burners, McBride chose a mirror-finish stainless steel griddle, sauté station, two deep fryers -- one designated solely for duck fat to crisp french fries -- four refrigerator drawers and heated storage areas. The exact dimensions, color, knobs and handrails are all created to order.

It's the only commercial Molteni in the Washington area, according to a company spokeswoman. (Only one area resident, a Silver Spring woman, has one of the residential-size models, which range in price from $23,000 to $75,000.) Molteni is part of the Electrolux Group of appliance manufacturers.

McBride's New American menu will feature local purveyors and include the origin of the ingredients, such as pork shoulder from Polyface Farm in Swoope, Va., served with black walnut glaze, and five-hour braised short ribs from Four Story Hill Farm in Honesdale, Pa. Entrees, which range in price from $18 to $32, will be delivered to the table in silver-plated casseroles.

Like a teenager smitten with his first car, McBride vows to keep his new stove shiny. "I'm going to hand-wash it twice a day," he says.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company