AT LONG LAST: "Big sigh. Now we can really open Poste." That was Andrew Freeman, vice president of restaurant sales and marketing with the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, announcing the hire of executive chef for the modern American brasserie (555 Eighth St. NW; 202-783-6060) in the Monaco Hotel, which was left without a chef when Jon Mathieson abruptly departed just a month after launch last July. His replacement is local: Jay Comfort of the stylish Bistro 309 (309 William St.; 540-371-9999) in Fredericksburg. Raised in Arlington, the 35-year-old chef has also worked at Sutton Place Gourmet in Bethesda and Red Sage in Washington. "This is a chance for me to spread my wings and fly a bit," says Comfort, who plans to join Poste mid-February and roll out a spring menu of his own design in March. He promises "an accessible menu that speaks to a lot of people." Comfort beat out six serious contenders for the executive chef's position, which involved three different tastings on two coasts for his soon-to-be bosses.

TRADING SPACES: After nine years of feeding us pupusas, empanadas and mole-topped bison steak at Gabriel (2121 P St. NW; 202-956-6690), chef Greggory Hill is leaving the popular Dupont Circle destination at the end of the month to open a contemporary American restaurant in the city's West End. One of his three business partners is David Hagedorn, who brightened the dining scene on 17th Street NW when he cooked at the late Trumpets. Their joint venture, David Greggory (2030 M St. NW), is expected to open no later than April in what used to be Shelly's West End. "It's been a great run," a wistful Hill says. "But this is the next step I need to take." While the menu will combine ideas from both men, Hill will head up the kitchen and Hagedorn plans to oversee the 120-seat dining room. Hagedorn thinks the split roles will be best for the business: "He who sits on two chairs, falls through," he joked. Friends of the two chefs encouraged them to use their names in the title of the restaurant, though Hagedorn says that has caused some confusion: "Already, someone has called asking for Mr. Greggory." At press time, no replacement had been made for Hill, who plans to cook his last meal at Gabriel Jan. 31.

-- Tom Sietsema

Greggory Hill, half of the forthcoming David Greggory.