Washington, D.C., restaurant veterans swap fascinating tales from inside the restaurant industry and explore the rise of celebrity chefs, the push for local and organic food, and the role food plays in human connection.
After graduating from Williams College in 1986 with a BA in Religion, Mike lived and worked in Osaka, Japan as a teacher, copywriter, and bartender at his neighborhood pub. Upon returning to the US, Mike began a 20-year career in the hospitality business, which included owning and operating his own restaurant, The Broad Street Grill in Falls Church Virginia, before joining DC Central Kitchen in 2004.
Drawing on his experiences in the restaurant business, Mike has spent significant time expanding the Kitchen's revenue generating social enterprise initiatives. Under his leadership, DC Central Kitchen's Fresh Start Catering has expanded from traditional catering opportunities to include contracts to provide locally-sourced, scratched-cooked meals to schools in DC.
DC Central Kitchen's Nutrition Lab facility, funded and launched under Mike's leadership, has allowed DCCK to take on more contracts, rapidly increase investments in purchasing from local farms, and improve production efficiency. Due to its many social service programs, the Kitchen now employs over 130 people, approximately 40 percent of whom are graduates of the Kitchen's nationally recognized Culinary Job Training Program, and social enterprise now accounts for roughly 65 percent of their total operating budget.
Mike is a Chair Emeritus of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington and a Board Member for The Common Market in Philadelphia. He also is on the Advisory Board of DC Greens and Catalyst Kitchens, the Leadership Council of DC Hunger Solutions, and an Advisory Board member for the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.
The Kitchen has received numerous accolades under Mike's guidance, including: The Mayor's Environmental Excellence Award , the Washington Business Journal's Green Business Award for Innovation, and The DC Chamber of Commerce 2012 Community Impact Award. Mike is also a recipient of the 2010 Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman EXCEL Award for excellence in chief executive leadership.
Mike lives with his wife Maureen and their three children, Maeve, Michael III and Ciara, in Falls Church, VA.
Rahman "Rock" Harper is a chef, television personality and restaurateur who won the third season of Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.
Jamie Leeds is one of Washington's most highly recognized chefs due to her wildly successful restaurant, Hank's Oyster Bar; her very active role in the community and her 20 plus years of inspiring culinary experience in New York, prior to moving to DC. In May 2005, she opened her first restaurant as executive chef and owner, the 65-seat Hank's Oyster Bar, which serves "Urban Beach Food". Hank's is named after Leeds' father, who she credits as her inspiration for becoming a chef. Since its' opening, Hank's Oyster Bar has been praised by Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Southern Living, The Washington Post, Washingtonian, DC magazine, The Washington Times and Fox Morning News.
Leeds came to Washington, D.C. when she joined the Washington Terrace Hotel as executive chef in May 2002, where she launched the 70-seat 15 ria. Her American cuisine with a comfort food twist was an immediate hit at the handsome, new boutique hotel where she was also responsible for developing catering menus. Wine Spectator, The Washington Post, Washingtonian and Bon Appetit were among the publications that praised Chef Leeds for her exceptional fare.
Favorable reviews and a successful launch also earned Jamie Leeds a nomination for "Rising Culinary Star" from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington's Capital Restaurant & Hospitality Awards in June 2003. Chef Leeds was also named a "Rising Star Chef" by Starchefs.com for Washington, D.C.'s 2003 awards program, which selected only seven chefs throughout the area for the coveted recognition. In 2006, her new restaurant Hank's Oyster Bar was nominated for a RAMMY for "Best New Restaurant" by the Restaurant Association of Washington and in 2008, Hank's won the coveted RAMMY for "Best Neighborhood Restaurant". In 2012, Hank's Oyster Bar was nominated again by Restaurant Association of Washington for "Best Casual Restaurant".
Barton Seaver is a chef who has dedicated his career to restoring the relationship we have with our ocean. It is his belief that the choices we are making for dinner are directly impacting the ocean and its fragile ecosystems.
Seaver has manned the helm of some of Washington, D.C.'s most acclaimed restaurants. In doing so, he brought the idea of sustainable seafood to the nation's capitol while earning Esquire magazine's 2009 "Chef of the Year"status from acclaimed food writer John Mariani.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Seaver has cooked in cities all over America and the world. Having been bitten by the travel bug, Seaver found work in southern Spain at a small family restaurant. Their casual, ingredient-based cooking style would prove to be an important influence in his perception of food as an essential part of community. When the off-season arrived, Seaver hopped on a boat to Morocco and landed in the small seaside village of Essaouiera. There, he took part in generations-old fishing methods, becoming a part of a community whose survival was directly linked to the oceans. This had a huge impact on his belief that sustainability is, at its root, not only an ecological matter, but also a humanitarian one.
While sustainability has largely been assigned to seafood and agriculture, Barton's work expands far beyond the dining table to encompass socio-economic and cultural issues. Locally, he pursues solutions to these problems through D.C. Central Kitchen, an organization fighting hunger not with food, but with personal empowerment, job training, and life skills.
Barton has been lauded as a leader in sustainability by the Seafood Choices Alliance and was recently named a fellow with the Blue Ocean Institute. He is presently an appointed member of the Mayor's Council on Nutrition in Washington, D.C., helping to craft a wellness policy for District residents.
He is the author of For Cod And Country (Sterling, Spring 2011), a book of recipes that inspires ocean conservation through the experience that we all share -- dinner. In addition, Barton is working on television and online shows that will engage consumers by telling stories everyone can relate to, whether they are preparing a meal or preparing to eat it.