Yes, after a year of rumors and speculation, Michel Richard surprised the foodie prognosticators by announcing that not only would he open a new restaurant Michel in the The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner but that Michel Richard Citronelle would not close. Many had surmised that the opening in Northern Virginia would bring the closing of Richard's flagship restaurant in the Latham Hotel. He told a gathering of media at an impromptu happy hour at the ever popular Central Michel Richard that Michel will open in the early Fall after an extensive renovation of the former Maestro space. Ritz-Carlton general manager Mark Sherwin stood with Richard as he talked about the upcoming new restaurant and then offered welcoming remarks to Washington's "Happy in the Kitchen" chef.
When I arrived a few minutes early, I found Richard in the kitchen putting the finishing trim on the hard-boiled egg whites for the steak tartare filling (yes, a steak and eggs play). I've followed Richard for 15 years in DC and have seen him in many settings and kitchens … and whether it is his own or as part of a charity team of chefs, he's a working chef. Yes, he's happy in the kitchen executing his playful artistry that tastes so good.
Let me do a shout out to the folks that make Central happen every night for Richard. General Manager Brian Zipin has kept the busy hot spot running so smoothly since its opening … so well that it won the James Beard Foundation Award for the national Best New Restaurant in 2008. Manager Jennifer Lucy is always a smile away when things need to get done … and I have to give kudos to anyone who remembers my name from the first time we met. It took me an embarrassing number of stupid stares by me before I finally remembered hers after a few encounters on the food trail. I met a new manager David Hale tonight who was clearly excited about a new series of wine and food dinners that he helped plan. Central Michel Richard is in its comfort zone and maturing nicely — and it's still fun.
Lastly, after more than a year of fielding the questions and offering the best answers she had at her disposal, on call Richard spokesperson Mel Davis did a stellar job. It's never easy answering the questions from those who feel they already know the answer … but she always told us the information based on the facts she had at that moment. Tonight Michel Richard's words from his lips validated her consistent professional approach. Nice job.
Now, DC foodies and food press can get out their GPS units and find once again where that mystery commonwealth called Virginia is located … but then they have til October to review their options to McLean.