Posted by Stefanie Gans, Dining Editor / Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
By Stefanie Gans
Starting in the restaurant business 23 years ago at the defunct Le Canard (now Maplewood Grill), the Vienna-raised John-Michael Hamlet is the new executive chef at Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro. Hamlet, 38, was most recently at the foodservice management company Compass Group USA and previously worked at Stone Manor Inn (Middletown, Md.), appeared on Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2010 (the last episode of the third season) and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1996.
The Reston Westin’s restaurant will keep its Mediterranean theme, but Hamlet says he plans to add a “French flair” including smoked oyster fricassee and his signature dish, FoiejitasTM. This trademarked dish—”My wife is a lawyer,” explains Hamlet, and she said, “‘let’s throw a mark on there’ … Happy wife, happy life”—follows Hamlet from his eponymous restaurant in North Salem, N.Y. (2007-2011), and includes four pieces of foie gras served with marinated red peppers, candied shallots and nutmeg crepes. “It’s like eating heaven,” says Hamlet.
Hamlet started working in Vinifera’s kitchen last Wednesday—the previous chef, Bo Palker, left for Arlington’s Pinzimini, also in the Westin—and will implement the current winter menu as is. He plans to start adding his own dishes next year, including the famed FoiejitasTM. Another reason for the trademark: “I do plan on writing cookbook,” says Hamlet. “It’s kind of a dish I’ve become known for.”
This is not the first chef-change from restaurants named to Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2013; Middleburg’s Goodstone Inn also tapped someone new.