The Top Chefs to Watch in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is full of restaurants, and many would say it is one of the culinary capitals in America. Many chefs seem to flock to this MId Atlantic City and they quickly find out that you cannot run a mediocre restaurant to stand out. With so many choices presented for diners, you have to be the best of the best to encourage customers to return. 

The next time you are considering your dining destination, try something different, and choose based on the chef versus the cuisine. Behind the scenes of every great meal you have in this culinary city, there is a team, led by their Chef, to thank. The chefs featured in this article are among the very best the city has to offer. Check out my list below!

José Andrés

Visit Website

There are few people who are unfamiliar with humanitarian and Michelin star chef José Andrés. We love José Andrés for his ability to put service above himself, and at the same time relate to people who follow his career. José Andrés has received many accolades internationally, including receiving James Beard awards for not only “Outstanding Chef” but for “Humanitarian of the Year” as well. Recognized by Time Magazine twice for being named as one of the Top 100 people of both 2012 and 2018. José Andrés is also a published author, and his book, We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time. José Andrés is active on his personal social media, sharing “Recipes for the People” which is an endearing project where he cooks and shares recipes, often with his daughter. We also encourage you to learn more about World Central Kitchen, his nonprofit organization that provides food to empower communities. Restaurants by José Andrés in the Washington, D.C. area include Minibar, Barmini, Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, China Chilcano, Beefsteak, Ovations by America Eats, and Pepe the Food Truck. 

Scott Muns

Chef Scott Muns is the Director of Research and Development at the Rose’s Group restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area. He is, notably, the Head Chef at Pineapple and Pearls, one of the few two Michelin Star restaurants in Washington, D.C. Chef Scott Muns has the ability to create an exquisite, fine dining experience. His attention to detail is supremely apparent, especially when plating his phenomenal meals. If you ever have the ability to make a reservation at Pineapple and Pearls in Washington, D.C., treat yourself to the Chef’s Counter experience to see Chef absolutely excel at the craft. While Pineapple and Pearls is still gearing up for its reopening since the Pandemic, you can currently enjoy their Pineapple and Pearls experience at home. Unbelievably, you can have all that Pineapple and Pearls offers in your own home including everything from a chef, the glassware, and even a custom playlist. 

Johnny Spero 

Chef Johnny Spero is known by Washingtonians, and those who have worked with him, as highly personable, and a true teacher in the restaurant industry. Chef Johnny Spero has mastered the art of working in multiple environments, including in Michelin Star restaurants, including previously acting as the Executive Chef at famed restaurant Minibar in Washington, D.C. He has also worked internationally in Europe, at Mugaritz, one of the World’s best restaurants since 2006.In 2018, Chef Johnny Spero opened Reverie, a new American restaurant in Georgetown. Reverie features a Chef’s Counter experience that is highly recommended. The food at Reverie is delicious, authentic, beautifully presented, and unique. The restaurant itself is beautiful, and has a covered garden patio. Chef Johnny Spero is also known as being an adoring husband and father, and he lives in Georgetown with his wife and daughter. 

Enrique Limardo 

Born in Venezuela, Chef Enrique Limardo has been making waves in Washington, D.C. since opening his debut restaurant, Seven Reasons. Making waves might be the understatement of the year. With the opening of Seven Reasons, Chef and Co-Owner Chef Enrique Limardo caught the attention of Esquire Magazine. They named Seven Reasons as the Best New Restaurant in America in 2019. That same year, they also received nods from The Washington Post, being recognized as the number one restaurant in their Fall Dining Guide. Chef Enrique has a “cool” factor that is undeniable. His artistic talents go beyond beautiful plating. He is a musician and even recorded a rock album in his younger years. He is also a painter and artist. Aside from Seven Reasons, you can also visit Immigrant Food, Chicken & Whiskey, and his newest venture, the already popular Imperfecto. As if we couldn’t love him enough, his partnership with the organization Tables Without Borders has been an inspiring initiative, setting the example for assisting refugees.

Spike Mendelsohn

If you are a fan of the show Top Chef, this name should not be unfamiliar to you. Celebrity Chef Spike Mendelsohn previously competed on the program, placing fifth in the fourth season. If you have had the pleasure of meeting him in real life, you know that Chef Spike Mendelsohn is just about the most personable chef you will ever meet in the Washington, D.C. area. Chef Spike is incredibly engaging, and has received considerable respect from the restaurant community and diners alike. While Chef Spike Mendelsohn is supremely skilled in the kitchen, he places great emphasis on giving back to the community. Sunnyside Restaurant Group, of which Chef Spike Mendelsohn is the Executive Consultant, recently received a RAMMY for the Good Neighbor Award. This award was received, and absolutely deserving, after donating pizzas day after day to National Guard members stationed at the Capitol prior to the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. This gesture inspired many other restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area to donate food, as well. Chef Spike Mendelsohn is also passionate about food sustainability and combating food waste. His initiative as co-owner at Eat the Change has inspired many to eat and enjoy plant friendly meals. This initiative prompted the opening of the very popular PLNT Burger, located inside multiple Whole Foods stores in the Washington, D.C. area. Chef Spike Mendelsohn has fans and frequent diners all of Washington, D.C., and two very known diners – Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who have dined at his Georgetown Establishment, Good Stuff Eatery. You can also visit his very popular pizza shop, We, The Pizza, as well as Vim & Victor, inside The St. James.

Nicholas Stefanelli 

With a heritage of Italian and Greek roots, Chef Nicholas Stefanelli first became fascinated with his cultural heritage through his Grandparents, and his passion with food grew when he visited Italy. Masseria, Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s beloved restaurant in the Ivy City area of Washington, D.C., opened in 2015 and became a sensation, drawing the attention of the Michelin Guide in 2016, when it was awarded a star. Masseria is best known for its delicious food and chef’s counter, fine dining experience.Prior to opening Masseria, Chef Nicholas Stefanelli has developed menus and served as head chef in other popular restaurants in the Washingotn, D.C., area. In fact, he was awarded the ‘Rising Culinary Star’ award by the RAMMY’s in 2010. On the heels of opening Masseria, he opened Officina in 2018, which serves up Italian food in The Wharf area of Washington, D.C. Chef Nicholas Stefanelli has since opened smaller locations of Officina in Georgetown and a cafe in Downtown, D.C. Make sure to keep an eye out for Philotimo, Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s debut Greek restaurant, slated to open soon, in Washington, D.C. 

Haidar Karoum 

Chef Haidar Karoum has always had a passion for fresh, locally grown food, and organic produce. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, he has spent years cultivating a close relationship with local farmers. It comes as no surprise that when Chef Haidar Karoum opened Chloe, it was named not only after his niece, but a nod to the Greek Goddess of Agriculture as well. Chef Haidar Karoum is clearly passionate about his craft, and has earned a reputation as being a chef who is inspired in the kitchen by his culinary journeys and extensive travels. With Chloe receiving a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2021, it has never been a better time to visit. The restaurant is as unpretentious as Karoum himself, and represents the hard work and dedication behind every delicious meal. Located in the heart of Navy Yard, Chloe has already drawn well known guests, including Vice President Kamala Harris. Chef Haidar Karoum has received a plethora of accolades throughout his culinary career in Washingotn, D.C., including being a finalist in the RAMMY awards several times for awards including ‘Best New Chef.’ One of the restaurants where Chef Kaidar Karoum previously served as Executive Chef also earned the recognition by the James Beard Foundation, from being a finalist in the category of ‘Best Restaurant of the Year’ in 2011. 

Matt Baker

As owner of the Michelin Star restaurant in Ivy City, Gravitas, we have come to know that we can only expect excellence from anything Chef Matt Baker touches. With an emphasis on exquisite food and spectacular dining experiences, Chef Matt Baker delivers! Chef Matt Baker made waves as early as 2009, when Time named him The Country’s Hottest Chef. Chef Matt Baker has worked at some of the most well known restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area, including Minibar by Jose Andres, Brasserie Beck, and Occidental Grill and Seafood. Clearly very talented, Chef Matt Baker has gone on to open The Conservatory, a luxurious rooftop dining experience at the top of Gravitas. Gravitas has been such a sensational hit, and we are gearing up for more from Chef Matt Baker. Not only has he opened one of the best cafes in Washington, D.C., Baker’s Daughter, but he held the fort down at Gravitas with his team throughout the pandemic, providing intricate at home meals for diners from Gravitas. Keep an eye out for Chef Matt Baker’s latest ventures, including a new French American dining experience, Michele. 

Jeremiah Langhorne 

Chef Jeremiah Langhorne, Chef and Owner at The Dabney in Washington, D.C., provides a voice to food from the Mid-Atlantic Region. If you have ever dined at The Dabney, you know that this restaurant is unpretentious, warm, and that the food is absolutely astounding. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne has mastered the art of enjoying food in this beautifully decorated, rustic restaurant in Blagden Alley in the Shaw area of Washington, D.C. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne gives diners an out of the world experience at the Dabney, and he is a source of inspiration for those wanting to hold a career in the culinary field. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne did not attend culinary school, but rather, was taught by a classically trained chef in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he grew up. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s The Dabney has earned a Michelin Star, and has received acknowledgement from Bon Appétit magazine, being recognized as a Best New Restaurant in 2016. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne has also earned the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region in 2018. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

Follow him on LinkedIn, Instagram, Quora, Google Guide and Facebook.