Lisa Shapiro with the kitchen staff at Citronelle Michel Richard (Photo by Jenna Duffy)
“How can this be work? This is so much fun!” I said. After spending an entire day in the kitchen at Citronelle Michel Richard, however, I realized that it is indeed a lot of hard work. David Deshaies and his team, including Sous-Chef Thomas Hauck, spend an average of 12 hours, 5 days a week in the kitchen rushing around spending all day on their feet. I guess it could be fun, fulfilling and rewarding, especially if you are as passionate about what you do as David is. Being a Chef is not just a career to him, it’s a life’s work, and at just 31 years old David is the Executive Chef at Citronelle Michel Richard, arguably the best fine dining restaurant in Washington, DC.
Under the direction of world-renown Chef, Michel Richard, David has spent the last eight years helping Citronelle distinguish itself as being one of the most innovative French restaurants specializing in modern techniques. Michel’s artistic avant-garde techniques are whimsical and clever. He has a talent for tricking one’s senses. In regards to Michel’s style of cooking, what you see is not always what you get. For example, what appears to be a slice of a hard boiled egg is really made of mozzarella cheese and yellow tomato puree – Michel’s own fools gold.
David’s Fruit Pizza
David has also learned these techniques and has applied them to some of his own dishes. His latest creation, the “Fruit Pizza” is served as a tart with rhubarb puree, which resembles the tomato sauce used on a traditional pizza, topped with fresh seasonal fruit: strawberries, rhubarb, figs, and banana. The Chef serves the fruit pizza tableside and completes the illusion by grating white chocolate on top; much like one would add fresh parmesan cheese. David explained that the fruit pizza, “is a new dish on the menu. It is very difficult to add a new dish to our menu. The fruit pizza was featured as daily special for three days and then we added it to the menu. It’s been on the menu for one week. We have gotten a great response so far.” I loved the new dish. What’s not to like?
Citronelle, located at the Latham hotel in Georgetown is well known for various “signature” dishes, including Michel Richard’s 72 hour braised short ribs, Tuna Salad Niçoise, Eggs symphony, and the Mosaic. Parts of the menu have not changed significantly over the years, Chef David says, due to the restaurant’s reputation world wide. Some of the most highly esteemed dignitaries in the world travel from all over to dine at Citronelle, and would be disappointed to find these dishes removed from the menu. Closer to home, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle dined at Citronelle recently. The President ordered the 72 hour braised short ribs and Michelle ordered the Lobster burger. They shared the soft shell appetizer and the crème brûlée for dessert. Luckily Citronelle had the ribs on the menu and perhaps avoided a national catastrophe. David recalls the evening, “I was anxious! It is not every day that you cook for the most powerful man on a planet! Especially since a chef from the white house was checking everything that we put on a plate and the secret service was in every corner of the dining room, but it was very nice. It was a beautiful evening for all of us!” Serving VIPs and dealing with security is all in a days work for David and the rest of the staff at Citronelle. The Saturday afternoon that I was at the restaurant, the President of Egypt had a dinner reservation; however, just before service began, they canceled. Maitre D, Jean-Jacques Retourne and Public Relations Coordinator, Mel Davis suggested that the Egypt’s President had reservations at several restaurants all over town for security reasons. I think that it would have been exciting to see the Egyptian dignitary but I also think it would have made the dinner service more hectic.
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Filed under: Chef Interview, Dining Review | Tagged: Citronelle, Citronelle Michel Richard, David Deshaies, Michel Richard, Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, Thomas Hauck | Leave a comment »