If you haven’t yet heard the news about Mussel Bar, don’t be shell shocked: Robert Gadsby, who headed up the kitchen since it opened this summer, has left the restaurant. A seasoned chef who owned his own eateries and cooked with some of the leading names in the food world, Gadsby is now corporate chef at Ridgewells caterers.
Polly Weidmaier, co-owner of Bethesda’s Mussel Bar with her husband and executive chef Robert, said that Gadsby’s departure was “cordial,” but that “creative differences made us part ways.” She also noted that Gadsby did not train under her husband like the chefs de cuisine at the couple’s other restaurants. “He’s a mature man,” she said of Gadsby. “It’s hard to tell someone what to do who (already) has a style and technique.”
Gadsby agreed that he and Robert Weidmaier, friends for nearly a decade, had two different culinary styles. “But it wasn’t an issue, it’s not something that was a conflict,” Gadsby said, calling Weidmaier “one of best masters of classical cuisine today.” As for himself, he said “if someone asked me my favorite style, I’d say Asian.”
Gadsby was executive chef of the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles from 1995 to 2002—one of the many impressive gigs on his résumé—so he’s well versed in banquet events. His job at Ridgewell’s—Bethesda’s Grande Dame of caterers—will include creating recipes and menus and leading the kitchen staff.
Meanwhile, back at the Mussel Bar, John Engle, executive sous chef at Weidmaier’s downtown restaurant, Brasserie Beck, is in charge until a new chef de cuisine is hired. I had lunch there last week, and my Classic mussel dish, the one with roasted garlic, shallots and Sauvignon Blanc, was right on target. The tart special with crawfish and bacon, however, was disappointing—an oil slick turned the dough limp, and the whole combo just didn’t come together.
Polly Weidmaier says they’ve gotten offers from real estate brokers and other interested parties to open Mussel Bars all over the place—Philadelphia, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Florida to name a few locations. But for now, the Weidmaiers are just sticking with Bethesda. They’re busy with plans to open a Brasserie Beck in Atlantic City in 2012.