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Chef Peter Smith on Gina Chersevani's Split With PS 7's

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Peter Smith & Gina Chersevani
Peter Smith & Gina Chersevani
Photo: PS 7's

News broke late last night that mixologist — or "mixtress" depending on who you ask — Gina Chersevani has parted ways with PS 7's just this week. The Washingtonian reported this morning that the split followed a disagreement between Chersevani and chef/owner Peter Smith and notes that the two were developing a new concept together — what other reports are hinting were a "cocktail deli" of sorts.

Eater caught Smith by telephone this morning and he shared some background about what exactly caused the surprise split and what the future holds now for the bar at PS 7's — which includes a potential revolving door of mixologists like Derek Brown or Owen Thompson. We also tried desperately to pry some information out of him about this project Chersevani has in store.

What happened that caused Gina to leave?
I don't know that I would say it was a disagreement. She needed to focus on her new venture and I needed to focus on PS 7's. It's not like we're going to kill each other or anything like that. I realized that it's time for her to go off and blaze her trail and do her thing and do what she's good at. She's definitely left a pretty good legacy behind her at PS 7's bar in terms of Brendan and Jason and all those people that she's been mentoring for the last little while. It's going to be a good opportunity for everybody just to grow and do what they've got to do.

Are you replacing her?
She's not being replaced as of this moment. We're going to work with who we have in terms of the group that's at the bar. She and I did a lot of things together. She was definitely the one that drove the cool, fun funky ideas and we were the ones that kind of played with it and brought them back down to earth and got it straight. But I think the guys behind the bar — I've been talking to them for the last little bit and they're all ready and eager to give it a shot and see what happens. It's going to be a really fun experience and it's going to be pretty cool to see what everybody does after watching the master do her thing.

I heard about your idea for revolving consultants.
Yeah, I've been talking to a couple of the mixologists in the city. I know them all, which is kind of cool. I've just been kind of throwing out to them, "What would you think about doing a little bit of consulting or coming in and doing a night behind the bar and see how things go?" That is definitely something that's in the works right now.

Do you have any names?
No one that's fully lined up yet. I'm talking with Derek Brown. I'm talking with Owen Thompson. Frank Jones. Frank used to work here too. I'm not trying to steal anybody or do anything, but just use them to see if they want to play around. Definitely the model works with Rogue 24 in terms of having consultant mixologists come in to play around. So it might be something fun to do.

Sounds like a good plan. What made you think of that?
It's funny, I was trying to get something pulled together for an Italian night pop-up and I was thinking it would be fun to see if anybody wanted to do something along with it in terms of mixologists. I spoke with Derek Brown about it and he said, "We'll see what we can do. It might be kind of fun." It was more an idea of just to kind of see what else is out there and see what other people are doing. I've definitely helped all them out before so I think it's time that they can reciprocate a little bit.

When was Gina's last day?
I guess officially last shift was Monday, but we were obligated to do Sugar & Champagne last night so she came by the restaurant, did the prep and I took her over to the Reagan Building and dropped her off. So it's not like we're ready to kill each other.

Her last shift was on Monday, but have you guys known for awhile that this was coming?
I don't know if I would say we've known for awhile. It's all just kind of got to the point where PS 7's bar required a lot of time and a lot of energy and effort and her new project was requiring a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of energy. Something somewhere has to give at a certain point. I think we finally reached that give point where we were like, "OK, we need to decide what's going on." And so we just parted ways.

Is the Valentine's Day pairing you had planned still going forward?
The Valentine's Day menu is still going to go forward. I'm talking to Gina right now if she wants to be part of it. But I've also got Brendan and Jason putting their heads together to see how they can pull it together. It's going to be exciting to see who sinks, who swims. Sometimes you've got to shake things up to see where everybody's at. As they say, the only thing certain in this business is change.

And so now what's the project you were working on together?
We were working on that. Again, I need to devote my time to PS 7's and she needs to devote her time to her new concept. If I can help her in any way with it, I'm happy to. We've worked together for a long time, we've known each other for a long time. We'll see what happens.

So, before, you were collaborating on this other concept and now it's just her?
Yeah. There was a lot of people kind of helping her with it.

Is there anything you can tell me about it?
No. I would, but it's not my place to say anything. I respect what she's doing and it's not my place to say what it is and what the concept is. That's for her. I wouldn't want to say anything to ruin that for her.

UPDATE: Comment from Derek Brown: "While I have a very good relationship with both Gina and Peter Smith, I have no intention of consulting at PS 7's. I wish them both well and I think they both have amazing restaurant and bar program there and at anything they do. I'm really proud of them, but I'm not involved with any replacement of Gina in any way."

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