When the chef de cuisine at Restaurant Eve informed his boss he was leaving to open a place of his own, Jeremy Hoffman gave Cathal Armstrong plenty of notice: five months, to be exact. So in singing his departing employee’s praises, Armstrong refers to Hoffman not just as “one of the best chefs I've ever worked with,” but also “a gentleman.”

Cathal Armstrong plans to return to the Restaurant Eve kitchen six nights a week when chef de cuisine Jeremy Hoffman departure. (Helayne Seidman/For The Washington Post)

Tapped three and a half years ago to helm the kitchen at Restaurant Eve, at a time when Armstrong was preoccupied with Virtue Feed & Grain and hoped to spend more time with his family, Hoffman, 29, plans to relocate to Annapolis with his wife, Michelle, a past manager at Majestic and a former captain at Restaurant Eve.

Hoffman says the couple hopes to roll out Preserve, “a super casual” American restaurant in the former Aqua Terra space at 164 Main St., in January. While the name isn't final, the concept – lots of preserved fruits and vegetables made with local products – is set.

Wannabe replacements for the job at the high-end dining destination in Alexandria should know that Armstrong has already picked someone: himself.

While “it has been a pleasure to have more time with my kids,” says Armstrong, who severed ties with Virtue in April, “I love cooking.” When Hoffman exits, Armstrong intends to return to the restaurant he named after his daughter and work in the kitchen six nights a week.

“I’ll never relinquish creative control over Restaurant Eve again,” says Armstrong. “It needs me.”