CHANGING COURSE: Veteran chef George Vetsch, who launched Circle Bistro (One Washington Circle; 202-293-5390) nearly two years ago, resigned from his position as executive chef there earlier this month, citing differences with management. "Overall," he summed up his tenure at the West End restaurant, "I did a lot of things that were kind of unique." Patrons found $1 gourmet snacks at the bar, for instance, and fritto misto served in place of bread in the dining room. What's next for the 46-year-old chef? Vetsch says he is interested in opening a place of his own, but until that happens he plans to cater and develop his baking skills. Despite a recent invitation to cook abroad, Vetsch wishes to stay in town. "D.C. is my home," he says. A spokeswoman for the restaurant, which will continue the modern American path set by Vetsch, reports that "the hunt is on" for a new chef, a position that could be filled as early as next month.
FIRST, YOU FIND A REALLY BIG PAN: To help celebrate the first anniversary of the Freshfarm farmers market in Penn Quarter tomorrow, its neighbor, Jaleo (480 7th St. NW; 202-628-7949), is whipping up some paella -- for 500 takers. Beginning around 1 p.m. on 8th Street NW between D and E streets, chef Rodolfo L. Guzman and a crew of five other cooks will start browning 120 pounds of chicken in a paella pan that measures eight feet across and requires "four strong guys" just to lift it, says Guzman. They also will add white wine, garlic, paprika, vegetables from local farmers and at least 25 gallons of stock, plus 122 pounds of rice from Spain. The expected serving time is 4:30 p.m.; a contribution of $3 per serving is requested. The hardest part of making such a mammoth meal, explains the chef, is getting the measurements right and making sure the heat is even. (A trial run addressed those concerns.) And yes, he adds, this is the biggest paella he's ever tackled.
-- Tom Sietsema