Michael Harr, a Gaithersburg-raised chef with a diverse résumé, is now at the helm of Food, Wine & Co., the Bethesda restaurant that’s gone through two other top toques since it opened in September.
Harr was most recently executive chef of Old Hickory Steakhouse and Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine, the two upscale restaurants in the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., and just before that was executive corporate chef for Celebrity Cruises in Miami, Fla. So the guy apparently knows how to feed a crowd. Closer to home, he’s held positions at the now-defunct Butterfield 9 and Red Sage in Washington, D.C., and Maestro in McLean. He also worked as sous chef at the London Club in Las Vegas and had early stints in Europe, including as personal chef to a French diplomat. The homepage on his website quotes Gertrude Stein: “I like it simple but it must be simple through complication.”
Food, Wine & Co. owner Francis Namin said Harr is revising and tweaking the menu, but is taking things slowly. For example, mussels are still on the menu, but “they’ve been completely redone,” according to Namin. Ditto for the roast chicken, which is now finished with a chipotle honey glaze and served atop goat cheese mashed potatoes. Harr will also be adding ceviche and seafood salads, among other dishes.
In its short life, Food, Wine & Co. has gone through a lot of internal turmoil—former executive chef Carole Greenwood lasted for two days this month, and Paolo Buffa, a longtime confidante of Namin’s, left in January. Other opening staff—chef de cuisine Kyle Christy, and his wife, manager Jill Christy, have also gone.
Namin said he takes full responsibility for the string of departures, saying, “I guess I made the wrong decisions. It all lands on me.” But with Harr on board, Namin is very optimistic. “My gut feeling is really, really good about Michael,” he said. “I haven’t felt this way in a long time.”