The Restaurant Challenge
**Due to this past week’s surprising news of Victor Albisu conceding to challenger, Christina Campos, we are cancelling the event scheduled for June 4th. We invite you to join us and congratulate our Restaurant Challenge Winner, Casita with a celebration at the Ballston BID’s Annual Meeting on June 23rd.**
Following the success of the Ballston LaunchPad Program, the Ballston BID is announcing the 2014 Challenge with a focus on restaurateurs. The Ballston BID will be seeking the "Next Signature Restaurant" — this new program is designed to activate commercial space and showcase the community of Ballston as a magnet for discovery and innovation. This continuation of the LaunchPad Program will again showcase the creative, supportive environment that the Ballston BID fosters for entrepreneurs in our community.
The program will feature Mike Isabella, Chef/Owner of Graffiato, Kapnos, G by Mike Isabella and a Bravo TV Top Chef All-Star. Isabella is bringing a first-class restaurant to Ballston, Kapnos Taverna, in 2014. The Restaurant Challenge winner will be awarded a 1-year, free restaurant space lease in Ballston- and there's more to come.
The Restaurant Challenge is open to established, experienced chefs with excellent operational skills. Strong candidates for consideration will submit a thorough business plan. Selected Challenge contestants will participate in events to showcase their skills including the Ballston BID Taste of Arlington. Applications will be accepted online through the Ballston BID website in early 2014.
Restaurant Challenge Prizes
- 11-year lease with 12 months of free rent
- After the initial 12 months, below market rates (approx. $16 per square ft.)
- $245,000 interest free loan
- Free legal services donated by Saul Ewing
- Free financial advising donated by Allender CPA
- One year free Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) membership
With more than a decade of experience in fine dining and upscale French, American and Latin American restaurants, Chef Victor Albisu is combining his culinary education with his Latin American heritage to bring a unique style of cuisine to his restaurant concepts. His first full-service restaurant, Del Campo, is an upscale South American grill in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It was named a Best New Restaurant of 2013 by Esquire magazine. In 2014, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington nominated Del Campo for Best New Restaurant and Albisu for Best New Chef. Taco Bamba, a takeout taqueria that reflects his Cuban and Peruvian roots, opened next to Plaza Latina in Falls Church, Virginia, a Latin market owned by Albisu's mother. Outside the kitchen, Albisu is a member of the American Chef Corps, a network of chefs from across the United States who serve as resources to the Department of State. Albisu also serves on the Chef Council for Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation annual D.C. fundraiser, and he supports The First Lady's Let's Move initiative to end childhood hunger and improve food quality in schools across the United States. In 2011, Albisu also appeared as a guest judge on the FOX TV Series, "Hell's Kitchen." Albisu is fluent in English, Spanish and French, and he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Relations from George Mason University.
Bombazo is a casual, Mexican street food eatery serving lunch and dinner daily, as well as weekend brunch. In addition to a full-time staff servicing 170 seats with a bustling 40-seat bar, a manager will service a counter dedicated to carry-out, catering and delivery, much like Taco Bamba in Falls Church, VA.
Building on the success of Taco Bamba, Chef Albisu's Mexican taqueria, Bombazo will be a chef-driven concept offering a large selection of Mexican street foods and building on the taco nuestros section at Taco Bamba. The menu will include tacos, tortas, sopes, tamales, empanadas and ceviches.
Bombazo will be a bustling, urban restaurant bathed in red, gray and white. It will be a neighborhood destination for casual business and family dining, as well as an approachable spot for young professionals.
Christiana Campos is a restauranteur's wife and a Ballston mom of two (7 and 4!) with a lifelong dream of opening her own restaurant. She's lived under the shadow of her husband's success and now it's her time to shine. Even though she's married to a Spaniard, she's got a dirty little secret…when it comes to food, she much rather have hearty dishes of comfort foods from Spain rather than tapas. She longs to open a restaurant that showcases the foods her mother-in-law cooks in Spain and the scrumptious dishes her husband prepares for her at home. She's learned a thing or two about the restaurant business from her husband. Among her friends, she's known as the hostess with the mostess. She sets a mean table, preps exquisite menus, and her guests never leave unhappy or hungry from her home. Now, she's ready to open the doors to a place that neighbors, friends—both old and new—can call their second home.
Casita pays homage to Spanish cafes and taverns by offering a laid back place that goes beyond tapas…a place where guests can decide their culinary journey whether it be a leisurely café con leche, a celebratory meal with friends and family, or just snacks and libations at the bar.
The concept is inspired from the timeless taverns that over generations have been offering very unique, yet typical, classic comfort foods from Spain featuring top-quality and seasonal ingredients. These taverns are known for their hearty dishes and "menus del dia" (a three course meal at a reasonable cost), as well as "pintxos" (essentially snacks on a skewer).
Our mission is to embody this Old World concept in a modern, warm, inviting and casual environment where exquisite foods, first class service, and lively atmosphere make each and every visit an unforgettable dining experience.
In Spain, restaurants welcome all types of guests. At Casita we intend to do the same. We will market ourselves to a wide range of clientele, from couples and families to singles, young and old, and everything in between. Our restaurant will serve as a second home to our guests, who we hope will become part of the Casita family.
Daniel Mesheske is currently the Head Chef at Pete's New Haven Style Apizza where he has been since the restaurant opened in 2011. Daniel started cooking as a child and began his career in the hospitality industry at the ripe young age of 18. For the past sixteen years he has worked in kitchens all over Northern Virginia and West Virginia, as well as spending some time studying regional European Cuisine in Italy, France, and Montenegro. In his free time Daniel enjoys biking, running, and training his German Shepherd Rex to fetch beers from the refrigerator.
The Ballston Chophouse will offer a verity of contemporary American cuisine using only the highest quality local and environmentally stable ingredients, made with love, from scratch every day. With an upscale casual full service dining room and bar, Ballston Chophouse will be your go-to place for Lunch, Dinner, or Happy hour. For those tight on time, the Chophouse Deli will offer an assortment of sandwiches and salads, made with the same ingredients and by the same Chefs, as the Ballston Chophouse, but in a quick carryout setting.
Zena Polin, co-owner, is also a trilingual author, editor and writer who writes for national and international magazines on food, wine and travel in and about Latin America, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the US. She wrote two travel guidebooks The Other Side of Sydney and The Pub, Club and Grub Guide to Washington, DC and is the managing editor of St. Kitts and Nevis Visitor Magazine. From 2000 to 2008, she lived in Puerto Rico and was the owner of The Winning Ticket, a public relations, marketing and communications firm with clients in Washington, DC, St. Kitts and Puerto Rico. She received a Master of International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management and her BA in International Affairs from The George Washington University.
Jerry Hollinger, co-owner and executive chef, began his career in the food business at the family store -Hollinger's Farm Market. He worked in the produce and bakery sections and was assistant manager of the grocery department at the age of 18. In 1996, he embarked on his professional cooking career as a prep and fry cook at Jean Michel Restaurant in Bethesda. After working his way to executive sous chef he left to be a private chef for a lobbyist and a public relations firm whose clients included prominent Washingtonians, and then opened his own boutique catering company. In 2009, he became the co-owner of The Daily Dish. He received his BA from Lebanon Valley College.
The Daily Dish, A Restaurant & Catering Company will expand its current concept from Silver Spring, MD to Arlingonton, VA. The Farm to Fork, upscale casual restaurant will serve brunch, lunch and dinner seven days a week with a focus on local, sustainable and farm fresh. Table service will be provided by a professional waitstaff; carry out will be available. A cocktail bar with televisions will focus on local tap beers, craft cocktails and espresso drinks. Other services will include full service catering for the office building, which will be expanded to the neighborhood.
While the base menu at lunch and dinner will stay the same, fresh ingredients will help determine the menu, specifically the side dishes and specials that will be available at all meals. Seasonal, fresh produce will come from weekly visits to local farmer and produce markets as well as a produce auction in Lancaster County. Fresh pita, focaccia and pizza dough will be baked daily. Organic or all natural, sustainable and pasture-fed proteins from verifiable sources, some of which are located in Virginia, will be offered. All soups, sauces, dressings and vinaigrettes will be made from scratch. We will ensure there are options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-allergies and other dietary restrictions.
Chef Kristen Robinson was born into the restaurant world through her Grandmother's kitchen in Flower's Restaurant in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. In her youth she learned basic cooking and baking skills at the side of her Grandmother, Margaret Flowers, and her Uncle Edward Flowers. They taught her the ins and outs of the industry, the importance of hard work, organization, and always caring for the customer.
She holds fond memories dating back to the age of 6 when she stood atop an overturned 5 gallon bucket so she could push peeled potatoes through the French fry cutter. Even then, she enjoyed a deep feeling of comfort and satisfaction in the preparation of food.
Chef Robinson attended the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York, and obtained her Bachelor's Degree in professional studies in Culinary Arts Management. Her first employment post college was as a Sous Chef catering weddings and corporate events where she refined her skills in fruit and ice carving, as well as developing menus.
Her next employer was the Pappas Corporation of Houston, Texas, where, as a Commissary Chef, her tasks included Research and Development and recipe testing for several restaurant concepts.
She moved to the Washington D.C. area to work for Chef Eric Ripert at Westend Bistro at the Ritz-Carlton. She recalls the focused ease of Chef Ripert which embodied one of his guiding principles: "Remaining calm in the heat of the moment when cooking for a dining room full of people is the key to being a successful cook. If you are not calm that is when mistakes happen, because you lose focus." Since 2010, Chef Robinson has been teaching at The Art Institute of Washington, where she teaches various culinary skills and manages dinner service for the Art Institute's Restaurant "Culinaire."
Laurel is a Market, Bar, and Tasting Room dedicated, first and foremost, to the people that live, work, and love Ballston. We will strive to establish a symbiotic relationship between the Ballston community and the staff at Laurel, where we believe in a balanced healthy life.
Laurel will offer a customizable experience in three distinct yet overlapping concepts. Laurel is a fresh food and gourmet American made goods market, wine/cocktail bar, and tasting room. The atmosphere at Laurel Market will be friendly and rustic with wood features offering American made goods and house made foods – featuring both ready to cook and ready to eat products, as well as a coffee and juice bar. Flowing from the Market, with a separate entrance, will be a modern Bar with dark, yet warm, aesthetics set with a 15 seat bar, tables, and booths. The bar will offer American made wines, beers, and liquor with fun, distinctive cocktails. Enclosed between the Market and Bar will be an intimate Tasting Room offering Pre-Fixe meals with wine pairing and a view of the kitchen.
Chef William Ham has been in the industry for the past 15 years; starting in corporate restaurants as a teen, William graduated from Johnson and Wales University's elite four year culinary program with honors. Since then, he has held various positions in the culinary field including, Director of Operations for the Miami Ice Man Ice Carving, Chef de Partie at Clyde's Restaurants, Sous Chef at the Swag Country Inn in North Carolina rated gold by Conde Nast, and most recently has been appointed Executive Chef at a local private country club. Chef Ham is passionate about American Cuisine and is eager to promote its nuances and sophistication in an unpretentious and environmentally sustainable manner.
Bryan Lopes grew up just north of Baltimore, Maryland, but came south in the fall of 2001 to attend Marymount University and hasn't left since. Upon arriving, he immediately fell in love with the area and Arlington in particular, where he works and resides with his wife. Having worked only in kitchens previously, he decided to give the front of the house a try and began working as a bar back for Tallula Restaurant in 2005. He quickly worked his way up to bartender where he found a passion for all things beer. Eventually, he took over the beer program and continued to expand his knowledge and passion through study, tastings, and beer dinners hosted at Tallula with guests of honor including brewmasters from craft breweries from all over the country. In 2008, Bryan left Tallula to work for a local private club as a food and beverage manager, where he also currently continues to grow his passion as the acting beer director.
Josh Radigan was born and raised in Arlington, Virginia and received his first taste of the food and beverage industry working at the Jefferson Hotel while attending college in Richmond, Virginia. After nine years of work in hotels and independently owned restaurants, Josh made his way back to Arlington to manage a local restaurant in the Ballston area. Seventeen years later, he has had the pleasure of working for some remarkable hotel and restaurant companies such as Bistro Bis, Kimpton Hotels, and Neighborhood Restaurant Group. He is currently the food and beverage/ wine director for a local private country club. Over the last 20 years, Josh developed a passion for wine and has studied extensively to cultivate his knowledge for such. He hopes someday in a future endeavor to showcase a wine program in a restaurant that focuses on educating the customer while complimenting the food, but keeping it an approachable and enjoyable wine experience for the patron, no matter how extensive their wine knowledge might be.
The BottleHouse is a modern American restaurant with an approach to the dining experience focusing on three equal parts; food, beer, and wine all perfectly integrated. Our intention is to provide carefully curated food and beverage pairings and selections with an emphasis on sustainable, seasonal selections.
David Ivey-Soto MBA, CEC®, CCA® has diverse food service experience serving in fourteen countries on five continents which has provided him with insights into the food service industry and the experience to share his expertise. He also developed and implemented a series of training programs for the food service industry. His experience includes teaching at the Culinary Institute of America, Fairfax County Public Schools Adult Education, and ATI Career Institute (now Stratford University) –where he developed and refined the curricula for most of the classes offered.
Chef David served as the Corporate Chef for Dome Capital, an umbrella investment company in the Internet industry. He assisted Richard Grausman in establishing the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) in the Washington, DC area as the Program Coordinator, working with inner city public school students and introducing them to careers in the foods service industry. During his time coordinating the program more than $1 million in scholarships were awarded to students of the District of Columbia.
He has been involved in the catering industry in Washington, DC working with the top caterers and leading many of the highest profile or politically sensitive events. Chef David has been featured in National Culinary Review, ESPN The Magazine, Freekick, The Daily News of the Virgin Islands, Newsweek, The Washington Post, among other publications and has been featured on WRC-TV NBC 4, Washington, DC He earned Certified Executive Chef from the American Culinary Federation in 2000 and subsequently earned Certified Culinary Administrator. He graduated with an MBA from the College of William & Mary in 2005. He has been a candidate for Master of Wine and Master Sommelier. Chef David lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Lisa Ivey, and their dog, Frijolita.
Imagine walking into The Pearl — Cuban and Caribbean Cuisine. On the far west of the restaurant is a bar reminiscent of Cuban glory days of the 1940s and 1950s. Warm wood paneling and faux windows looking out on painted scenes of Caribbean beaches welcome you to a cozy place to gather, celebrate, and enjoy. The dining room, too, is welcoming; business people, families, and young up-and-comers enjoy food from La Perla del Caribe — "The Pearl of the Caribbean," as Cuba is known, and other parts of the Caribbean. The tables are sturdy with a fit for a great game of dominos. The aromas from the kitchen fill the dining room with scents of garlic, cumin, coconut, and charcoal. While there are no tablecloths on the tables, they are not missed.
The focus for the restaurant during the breakfast and lunch hours would be for the employees in office buildings in and around The Pearl. The dining room will be available during breakfast for the daily rundown breakfast. Just as at breakfast, to-go orders will be available for the diner on the go. Happy hour would be the transition point. At that point, the restaurant would focus on attracting the local residential community and business travelers staying in the hotels close by. To keep the menu fresh, different islands in the Caribbean will be highlighted at different times of the year.
Jacques Imperato is a French-born Chef with schooling and work experience from Southern France. Trained in Traditional and Nouvelle French Cuisine, Jacques has worked with several well-known restaurants in the Washington DC area, such as Maison Blanche, Tiberio and Lavandou since his arrival in the US in the early 1980s. Jacques was the owner of Mediterranee Restaurants in Arlington and Great Falls for 16 years, and has been working as a full time Consultant in the Restaurant Business since 2012.
Jacques has a strong culinary background, with many years of experience in the business. This has given him a chance to develop and fine tune his own creative and unique style, as well as learning to adapt to the many different demands of taste and fashion in the Restaurant industry.
Red & Blue will be a Steak House serving grilled meats, fresh fish and seafood and fine creative food. This will be a restaurant where the fine dining experience for the customer, where service will match the food quality. There will be a separate space in the restaurant with a display of wine bottles, where people can buy wines at retail price (a cork fee charge will be added if the wine is consumed at the restaurant). Bottles will also be displayed all around the bar area. The Restaurant is envisioned to have a modern, trendy look, with an intimate atmosphere.