Doi Moi, the Southeast Asian restaurant that serves breakfast banh mi in its Birds Eye cafe by day and a range of curries, noodles, and large-format dishes meant to be ripped apart by hand at night, is about to change chefs for the second time in less than two years.
Johanna Hellrigl, executive chef of Doi Moi within restaurant group Fat Baby Inc., announced on Instagram today that her last day in the kitchen will be Friday. She tells Eater that sous chefs Eric Arill and Brandon Nguyen will stay on at Doi Moi, and she’ll assume another executive chef job at a restaurant she declined to mention.
Hellrigl arrived at Doi Moi in March 2018, replacing Sasha Felikson. She immediately set about expanding the focus of the restaurant from Thai and Vietnamese, the vision of opening chef Haidar Karoum, to a broader approach encompassing ingredients and dishes from from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Timore-Leste.
Hellrigl, who committed to making her own curry pastes in-house, oversaw the implementation of dishes like duck heart skewers with piri pir sauce, a banana leaf salad with coconut milk-poached chicken, and playful “ho hos” made with pandan or ube.
Hellrigl also oversaw the closing of Fat Baby’s former flagship, Proof wine bar, when its lease ran out this past January in Penn Quarter. Estadio also used to be part of Fat Baby Inc. but split off under Max Kuller following the death of his father, Mark Kuller, in 2017.
A graduate of George Washington University’s international affairs program, Hellrigl previously spent years working with women in grassroots political efforts across Southeast Asia as part of a democracy building organization. She previously held leadership positions in D.C. kitchens at Via Umbria and Boulangerie Christophe.
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From Sri Lanka to East Timor, we’ve taken quite a journey and now it’s time to say goodbye. Friday will be my last night of service at Doi Moi as I go on a new adventure- embarking on a new career opportunity on my culinary journey! Today I think of all the people who have walked through the doors of Doi Moi and Birds Eye over the past year and a half. I think about where we started and how far we’ve come to make this restaurant what it is today. I am proud of each member of our team and I thank them for believing in my vision over and over. I want to thank the women from Southeast Asia that opened my palate to flavors I didn’t know existed. To take inspiration from those moments in time to warm the bellies of guests here in DC is all I could have ever asked for as a Chef. I’m excited for my favorite gentlemen, Eric & Brandon, to keep what we have built alive and for them to tell their own culinary story to you when the time comes. I can’t help but also think of my father, and thank him for introducing me into the crazy world of restaurants and to my mother for supporting me when I was crazy enough to join in. I am thankful to my husband Micah for being my rock- I have a tendency to put everything I’ve got into what I do, and he gave me the love and encouragement to do so. Most importantly, I’m thankful and proud to be young, a woman and a chef. I can’t wait for what’s next and to share it with you, but in the meantime: come celebrate and toast this chapter of the journey with me before Friday!
This post has been updated to reflect that Hellrigl was not a partner in Fat Baby