An internationally trained chef who has worked for many years in restaurants around the globe – including with world renowned Chef Jose Andres – has opened a restaurant in Ashburn with a local farm-to-table theme.
Chef Jorge Chicas and his wife Carmen, owners of Farm & Fork Kitchen in Goose Creek Village, say they are excited for their first solo restaurant and to be serving the community of Loudoun County.
Chicas has literally worked his way from the ground up — starting his career at the age of 13 by washing dishes in restaurants in Maryland when his family immigrated from El Salvador. He worked while going to school and eventually became a sous chef.
He was then hired by Capital Restaurant Concepts in Washington, D.C., and found he had a natural talent in the kitchen, he said.
He was interested in attending culinary school, but had bills to pay, so he continued working as a sous-chef at Paolo’s in Rockville, Maryland. Over the years, Chicas moved to different restaurants including Georgetown Seafood Grill, and then he worked in a Lebanese restaurant and was sent to Beirut to learn more about the food and culture there and had a real connection with that style of cooking – in particular, using healthy and fresh ingredients.
“I love Mediterranean food, it’s my essence,” he said.
He then worked under Roberto Alvares and Jose Andres’ company, ThinkFoodGroup.
“I loved it there. I worked with a lot of different chefs absorbing a lot of what they did. I worked with Chef Jose Andres and really understood how the restaurant business worked. He would take us to fancy restaurants in New York City and Chicago and to French Laundry and in Spain and it gave me a lot of background,” he said.
His next stop was at Zaytina – a Lebanese/Turkish/Greek restaurant where he served four years as executive chef and general manager.
“This gave me a lot of exposure to the restaurant business,” he said.
He also helped open Andres’ DC restaurant Oyamel and spent time in Mexico learning new techniques and cuisines from around the world.
Chicas next moved to Los Angeles and opened the SLS Hotel where he worked for about six years and then decided to come back to the east coast to be near his family.
He worked at the Kimpton Hotel in Philadelphia and then at a steak house restaurant in Washington, D.C., and the Union Square Hotel in the Navy Yard.
Finally, he felt the timing was right to open his own restaurant business and was drawn to Loudoun because his brother-in-law lives in Leesburg.
“We would go out in the area and see what the new trends are here,” Chicas said. “I saw potential in the area and started looking at locations.”
He met with the landlord at Goose Creek Village and felt they had a good synergy for what he was looking to do with the space.
Considering the connections between the local farms, wineries and breweries, Chicas wanted to create a restaurant with a fresh farm-to-table theme.
“We began developing relationships. We want to keep it as local as possible by using sustainable seafood, grass-fed, hormone-free beef and free-range chickens that are responsibly grown,” Chicas said.
His long-term plan is to develop other restaurant concepts in Loudoun County and to move to Loudoun from the Woodbridge area.
“We are taking it one step at a time. Right now, we are concentrating on the restaurant,” he said.
He says they have developed a great team in Ashburn who offer quality and consistent service to deliver the high standards that Chicas expects.
The menu changes based on what is available seasonally, he said. Popular items so far have been roast chicken served with arugula, chicken liver mousse and grilled bread. Another favorite is the duck confit served with French lentils, or the short ribs served with mashed potatoes and pearled onions.
There are several salads and fish dishes, such as rockfish served with baby spinach and a lemon caper butter sauce.
“We keep adding and changing the menu. Guests are enjoying the fact that we have new and different items each week,” Chicas said.
The beverage program was developed by his friend Alexandra Bookless Turner and features local wine, beer and craft cocktails. In addition to Loudoun wines, there are selections from Italy, Spain, California, South America and Australia, he said.
Farm & Fork Kitchen opened Sept. 15 and has 66 seats inside and 32 on the terrace. It is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Chicas hopes to add lunch two days a week in the spring as well as Sunday brunch.
For more information, visit farmforkkitchen.com.
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