Wednesday, January 31, 2007

CHEF SHUFFLES: Several popular Washington restaurants are about to lose their chefs, as John Wabeck of Firefly in Dupont Circle and Anthony Chittum of Dish and Notti Bianche, both in Foggy Bottom, announced their resignations from those hotel properties last week.

After 4 1/2 years at his contemporary American restaurant, Wabeck, 38, is leaving in March without a job prospect. A longtime devotee of wine, he says he's mulling "the wine thing" or "the kitchen thing," meaning he's undecided about whether to focus next on a wine or cooking project.

Chittum, 30, who has watched over two locations for almost two years, is leaving the District for Northern Virginia, where he'll take over the kitchen at Vermilion in Old Town in mid-March. He says he's looking forward to concentrating on a single menu and to doing so in Alexandria, whose emerging fine-dining scene he compares to the burgeoning one outside Manhattan, in Brooklyn; veteran chefs Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve and Eamonn's/A Dublin Chipper, and Morou Ouattara of the new Farrah Olivia, have helped raise the food bar in that previously traditional suburb. Vermilion is one of six eating establishments owned by the local Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which recently tapped chef Frank Morales of Zola in Penn Quarter to remake the menu at Rustico, also in Alexandria.

No replacement has been named for Wabeck. A spokeswoman for Firefly, at Hotel Madera, says the restaurant is conducting a national search for the soon-to-be-open position. Notti Bianche, at the George Washington University Inn, will retain its Italian format and will be supervised by chef Brendan Cox of the nearby Circle Bistro, which, like Notti Bianche and Dish, is owned by Washington developer Conrad Cafritz. (Cox and Chittum previously worked together at Equinox downtown.)

Cafritz is retooling the concept at Dish, which has yet to announce a chef. Early next month the restaurant will be rechristened Dish + Drinks and will acquire a wood floor, a community table and a "lighter" menu in hopes of attracting more of a neighborhood crowd, according to Cafritz.

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