He’s worked in some of D.C.’s most renowned kitchens and has collected accolades along the way. Still, Oval Room executive chef John Melfi admitted to being somewhat nervous about leading his first dinner at the temple of gastronomy that is the James Beard House.
An alum of award-winning establishments including Fiola Mare, Blue Duck Tavern, and the since-shuttered Vidalia, Melfi told Eater that being invited to orchestrate a Beard Foundation dinner in New York City prompted some self-reflection. The challenge, he said, was making sure his passion for showcasing regionally expressive ingredients in unique but still approachable compositions comes through without “overdoing it.”
The dishes he expects to share with Beard House guests on Wednesday, May 10 include a half-dozen hors d’oeuvres ranging from grilled local asparagus with air-cured beef, bottarga, and almond oil to sardine escabeche escorted by rye crouton, espelette pepper jam, and aged Sherry tonic. Featured mains include chicken liver mousse with cocoa nib granola, pickled green strawberry, and vanilla onion jam, as well as roasted Shenandoah Valley lamb accompanied by charred eggplant puree, toasted Marcona almonds, and Moroccan olive tapenade.