The owner of popular Arlington’s barbecue joint Texas Jack’s has hired an experienced D.C. chef with some reality TV notoriety to his name to run an 11,000-square-foot Italian restaurant coming to Tysons later this year.
Declan Horgan, a finalist on Season 19 of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and a former executive chef at Irish kitchens like Kirwan’s on the Wharf and Daniel O’Connell’s in Old Town, will open Jack’s Ranch for owner Steve Roberts inside the Lumen apartment building at 1755 Tysons Central Street. The restaurant is targeting a September opening.
Despite a name that brings Southwestern cooking to mind, Jack’s Ranch won’t be much like Texas Jack’s. An announcement introducing Jack’s Ranch does tease smoked meats, but that comes in addition to salumi, cheeses, seafood, pasta, and Neapolitan and Roman pizzas. The restaurant also plans to add a full-service deli called Josephine’s Italian Market and Café, which will sell sandwiches, coffee, and imported Mediterranean ingredients.
“You might ask, what’s an Irish man doing cooking Italian?” says Horgan, a Dublin native who finished third in the Hell’s Kitchen season that aired in early 2021. “Well, I’m going to make sure I’m doing it well by nailing the classics. Think carbonara, done the proper way, with guanciale and egg yolks nailed before adding in the fresh pasta.”
Many products at Jack’s Ranch will have a DOP — or Denominazione di Origine Protetta — certification that guarantees certain items can be traced to individual Italian regions. Horgan says he’s busy testing San Marzano tomatoes for pH levels and sugar content. The chef learned classical Italian cooking techniques while living in the Tuscan town of Torrano, Italy, for four years.
“I’m not going to do a ‘chicken alfredo,’” Horgan says, throwing up air quotes around the rich, Italian-American dish. “It’s pollo bianco.”
An announcement promises a “luxe nouveaux ranch atmosphere” with flowers hanging fro the ceiling. Jack’s and Josephine’s are named after the real “Texas Jack,” John B. Omohundro, a 19th-century Irish-American cowboy from Virginia, and his Italian wife, the actress and ballerina Josephine Morlacchi. Customers will be able to watch an open kitchen equipped with Neapolitan pizza oven from a 360-degree wraparound bar serving Italian wines, cocktails, and a dozen local beers on tap.
Horgan’s big, brash personality helped stand out on TV. He still communicates with his fellow contestants on a WhatsApp group chat titled after one of his notable lines on the show: “You can either lead, follow, or F off.”
“Anyone who’s ever seen me on TV, just know that’s the real me,” Horgan says. “I don’t change. That humor that I have, that’s one hundred percent genuine.” Asked if Ramsay could make an appearance at Jack’s Ranch, Horgan says, “anything is possible.”
“He’s a gentleman and a scholar,” Horgan says. “Hell’s Kitchen was the proudest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I’ve cooked for Michelle Obama!”