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Daniel Singhofen
Executive Chef/Eola

At 32 years old, this Orlando, Florida native has opened a cozy, yet refined eatery just off Dupont Circle. With a continuously changing menu that showcases the best of local and sustainable ingredients, Eola has garnered critical acclaim in the culinary community, including 2½ stars by restaurant critic Todd Kliman of Washingtonian magazine, citing Singhofen as “a young talent who can make good on his promises … producing imaginative, intensely flavored dishes that hint at big things to come.”

Despite being more than three-quarters of the way through a Bachelors degree in English from the University of Florida, Singhofen found himself constantly drawn back to the kitchen. Discovering his passion, Singhofen enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, where he learned the fundamentals of the craft. While at the CIA, Singhofen worked in the kitchen of Gigi Trattoria, to which he accredits “really learning how to cook.” Under the tutelage of Chef Gianni Scappin and peer mentor Jessie Frederick, Singhofen gained his deep appreciation for local and seasonal ingredients as well as developing his own individual style. After graduating from CIA, Singhofen returned to Florida to continue honing his craft at The Ritz-Carlton in Naples and K Restaurant & Wine Bar in Orlando before moving to the Nation’s Capitol to open his own project: Eola.

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Ed Witt
Executive Chef/701

Binghamton, New York native Ed Witt is quickly establishing himself as one of the foremost champions of small, family farms. Raised on frozen vegetables and crock-pot dinners, Witt is now deeply committed to sourcing ingredients and places extraordinary value on determining the provenance and methods by which his meat, fish, poultry and produce are brought to market. A former resident of the Washington area by way of Damascus High School and later the University of Maryland, Witt brings his meticulous approach and attention to detail to back to Washington at 701 Restaurant, where the menu reflects an inventive approach to contemporary continental cuisine.

Ed Witt attended the Culinary Institute of America and began his culinary career as an extern at San Francisco’s Rubicon. He stayed to work with Chef Tracy Des Jardins. During his time in San Francisco, Witt learned a new, hands-on appreciation for the impact remarkably fresh ingredients have in a restaurant kitchen. Witt was later hired by Jardins to help open her restaurant, Jardinière, before moving on to San Francisco’s mc². Read More…

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Peter Smith
Chef & Owner/PS 7′s

Smith “officially” began his culinary career at the Country Club of Fairfax in Virginia, at the age of 14. After three years, Smith moved to Pino’s, one of the top Italian restaurants in the area. Here, he expanded upon his experience, participating in menu planning, purchasing, preparation, catering and supervision of the kitchen staff. From Pino’s, Smith simultaneously worked at the Carlyle Grand Café restaurant in the neighborhood village of Shirlington, Virginia, while attending culinary school at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland, under classically Swiss-trained Chef Francois Dionot. Following graduation, Smith took an externship at the Occidental restaurant in Washington, DC, where he met Chef Jeffrey Buben. Buben saw promise in Smith and the two formed a strong working relationship. When Buben left the Occidental in 1993 to open Vidalia restaurant, Buben invited Smith to join him. An invaluable asset to the Vidalia team, Buben named Smith Executive Chef after five years, at the age of 28. Jeffrey Buben and Vidalia received both local and national praise under Smith’s direction in the kitchen, including a James Beard Award in 1999. Read More…

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Justin Bittner
Executive Chef/Bar Pilar

Rising Stars: Bar Pilar’s Justin Bittner

Who: Justin Bittner, executive chef at Bar Pilar

Age: 30.

Why we chose him: He’s turned a drinking den into a dining destination with seasonal dishes—peaches with olive oil and sea salt, crispy potatoes with malt aïoli—that are simple but big on flavor. Read More…

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Nicholas Stefanelli
Executive Chef/Bibiana

Maryland native Nicholas Stefanelli set his early sights on becoming a fashion designer intent on studying in Italy after graduating from high school in 1998. Instead, he fell in love with the foods of Italy while traveling extensively, appropriate given his Greek/Italian heritage, growing up with grandparents who raised their own produce and delighted in cooking and sharing experiences around the table.

To pursue his new dream, Stefanelli enrolled in L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD, graduating in 2001 to enter an externship at Galileo restaurant in Washington, D.C. After a few short months, he quickly rose to chef de partie at Galileo, and then went on to become the chef de partie of Laboratorio del Galileo, a exclusive dining room with a completely open kitchen tucked in the back of Galileo, where he crafted twelve-course tasting menus for the restaurant’s guests.

Then in 2003, he accepted the position of chef de partie at Maestro, the AAA Five Diamond, Mobil Four-Star Italian restaurant in McLean, Virginia where he remained until 2007, moving up to the position of sous chef, responsible for assisting with menu research and development, plus the daily kitchen operations. Working under Maestro’s James Beard award-winning chef Fabio Trabocchi, Stefanelli cultivated a talent for cooking and expanded his knowledge of the nuances of Italian cuisine. Trabocchi taught Stefanelli everything from understanding the regional culinary traditions of Italy, to sourcing rare ingredients; knowledge that continues to serve him well today. An able young chef, Trabocchi proclaimed Stefanelli as a rising star in the industry and encouraged him to stage at Thomas Keller’s world renowned French Laundry in California, which he did in 2004. Read More…

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Todd Gray
Executive Chef & Owner/Equinox & Watershed

Already a star chef when he opened Equinox, Todd Gray is a top culinary talent in the nation’s capital and an avid promoter of local, seasonal mid-Atlantic foods. Known for breathing new life into historical recipes, Gray developed Equinox’s distinct cuisine, enhancing Virginia-Piedmont ingredients and recipes with his classical training. His refined taste, stellar reputation and high standards landed him the culinary director position with BET co-founder Shelia Johnson’s Salamander Hospitality. There he is overseeing development and implementation of an elegant menu of regional Virginia specialty dishes for the 340-acre Salamander Resort & Spa, slated to open in Middleburg, Virginia in 2011.

Gray has earned many awards for his artistry and inspired menu combinations, including the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s (RAMW) 2008 award for Best Fine Dining; five nominations for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic award and eight nominations for RAMW’s Chef of the Year. Other honors include top ratings in the ZAGAT Guide Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence ten years in a row and numerous Awards of Excellence from the Distinguished Restaurants of North America. Read More…

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Frederik De Pue
Executive Chef/Smith Commons & 42˚Catering

Chef Frederik De Pue is known throughout Washington DC’s dynamic food scene as an international trendsetter. He translates his global culinary experience through an eclectic, yet approachable menu at Smith Commons.

Born and raised in Belgium, Chef Frederik trained at the Hotel School Ter Duinen and worked at several top European restaurants. He worked under Chef Alain Ducasse at Louis XV and later became Sous Chef at Alain Chapel. In 1998, at age 21, he joined Yves Mattagne’s Sea Grill in Brussels and worked there for three years. In 2001, he traveled to Washington, DC to become the Executive Chef of the European Commission Delegation Ambassador. Chef Frederik was highly praised in the diplomatic circles where he would spend the next five years creating one of the most exceptional dining tables in the Embassy world. Read More…

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Mike Isabella
Chef & Owner/Graffiato

Photo by Michael Bonfigli

Chef Mike Isabella is set to open his first restaurant, Graffiato, in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC in Spring 2011. The 150-seat Italian-inspired spot will feature snacks, small plates and artisanal pizzas with seasonal ingredients influenced by the food Chef Isabella grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian American grandmother.

Before opening Graffiato, Chef Isabella was the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya. During his three-year tenure Chef Isabella generated accolades and national attention for Washington, DC’s Mediterranean powerhouse restaurant.

Chef Isabella’s formal training began at The Restaurant School in New York, taking classes and cooking his way through some of New York City’s finest establishments. After honing his skills in the Big Apple, he travelled down the coast to Philadelphia, first as a sous chef for James Beard award winner Douglas Rodriguez at Alma de Cuba, then a host of other Stephen Starr restaurants. At El Vez, Chef Isabella learned the true craft of Latin cuisine under the direction of Jose Garces, and as Executive Sous Chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square, Mike educated himself on the strenuous yet exciting task of opening a fine dining establishment. Read More…

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Jaime Montes de Oca, Jr.
Executive Chef/Zentan

Jaime Montes de Oca, Jr. is the Executive Chef of Zentan, Susur Lee’s newest global Asian restaurant located in Donovan House-a Thompson Hotel. As chef de cuisine, Montes de Oca leads the culinary team in turning out imaginative standouts such as the Singapore Slaw with salted plum dressing, Szechwan Style Half Duck with bean djan and lotus crepes, as well as a wide selection of Asian crudos, sushi, and sashimi.

Montes de Oca brings to the Donovan House a long history of hotel experience, having worked at prestigious institutions such as The Plaza, The Ritz Carlton and The Waldorf-Astoria.

Before opening Zentan in 2009, Montes de Oca collaborated with Chef Lee in opening Susur’s New York hot spot, Shang. He has also held posts at many New York Times rated establishments, such as Vong, La Grenuille, and Tocqueville, at which his focus was creating Modern American cuisine driven by Green Market produce. Throughout his culinary career Montes de Oca has learned from celebrated chefs such as Laurent Manrique, George Mendes and Jean-Geoges Vongerichten. Montes De Oca, Jr. is a 1990 graduate of New York Restaurant School.

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