Chris Ferrier: Prime dining

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Entertainment,Alexandra Greeley

For a country guy, Chris Ferrier, a Kentucky native, has certainly climbed the culinary ladder of success. As the executive chef of the newly opened 2100 Prime restaurant in the Fairfax at Embassy Row (the former elite Jockey Club), he achieved a certain star status amongst his cooking peers.

But as Ferrier points out, despite the upscale decor, he is steeped in the farm knowledge he acquired as a youth. "In the summertime," he said, "we were all there doing small farm chores. We even had grandma grab a chicken from the pen and getting it ready for dinner." Noting that she was a fabulous cook, Ferrier reports that everything she grew ended up canned for her pantry stock, including the tomatoes that she had turned into tomato juice.

Like his siblings, Ferrier learned how to cook for himself, and as a teen, was able to adapt a meal from anything he found in the refrigerator. And as a teen, Ferrier became interested in a culinary career when he took his first job at a local restaurant as a dishwasher. "If I cleaned up everything," he said, "the cooks offered to prepare food for me. I asked them, 'Why don't you show me what your are making, so then I can cook it myself?' "

If you go
2100 Prime
Where: 2100 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Info: 202-835-2100
Hours: Breakfast, Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; Dinner, Tues.-Thurs., 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fri., Sat., until 10:30 p.m.

As fate would have it, the restaurant owner suggested that Ferrier get behind the line, and started him off doing prep work. "I worked 2 to 3 years there," he said. "I would then cook for friends and family. They all said that I should go to culinary school."

After working at Houlihan's locations in New Jersey and D.C., Ferrier saved enough money to enroll at the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, he found a job at the Grand Hyatt and sister restaurants in Washington where he has cooked almost nonstop since then, starting as sous chef garde and finally to executive chef. While at the Hyatt on Capitol Hill, Ferrier recalls, he served then President Clinton a dish of Virginia spring lamb encrusted with pistachios.

For a change of pace, he took some time away from the D.C. scene to work at Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville, Va., for several years, then moved around the country working in various venues, including a Hyatt hotel in Texas. This preceded a return with the Hyatt corporation to the metro area and eventually to his current chef's position.

Now at 2100 Prime, Ferrier lets himself play around with ultra-fresh farm goods, visiting the nearby Freshfarm Sunday market at Dupont Circle, a mere block away. After all, he says recounting a recent trip, he returned to the restaurant loaded with fresh greens for his own house-made chimichurri, baby potatoes, peaches for peach chutney or poached peaches, and even fresh scallops and cuts of lamb. This is the right fit for a former farm boy.

Q&A

What is your comfort food?

My grilled cheese sandwich. I use Comte cheese, real butter and whole wheat grain bread or brioche. I cook it is a cast-iron skillet. My daughter loves it.

What is your must-have ingredient?

Hot sauce, such as Cholula. It is a good blend of peppers, vinegar, tomatoes. Then butter and bacon.

What's in your fridge?

Limes, hot sauce (3 different kinds), mushroom soy sauce and a case of beer.

Which is your favorite restaurant?

The Old Glory because it is always a fun place. You can sit at the bar and eat great bacon on a sandwich. Then the restaurant RIS.

What would do with a year off?

Besides eat, I would definitely go to Europe: Italy, Portugal for half a year. The other half, I would stay in the United States, and go on a lobster boat in Maine, and go back to the Shenandoah.

Recipe

Pan-Seared Atlantic Bass with Oven-Dried Tomato Chimichurri

Serves 4

Oven-Dried Tomato Chimichurri

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher salt to taste.

Freshly ground black pepper to taste.

3/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup minded oven-dried tomatoes

Fish

4 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil

4 6 oz. portions of black bass fillets, skin on, bones removed

Kosher salt to taste.

Black pepper to taste.

To make the chimichurri, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper until salt has dissolved. Stir in parsley and the oven-dried tomatoes; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat saute pan over medium-high heat.

Add 4 tablespoons of grape seed or canola oil to the pan. Pat bass fillets dry, and season with kosher salt and black pepper. When the oil in the pan starts to shimmer, add the fish fillets, skin side down. Sear for approximately 3 minutes. Turn fish over.

Cook in 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes. It is important not to overcook the fish, as this makes the flesh tough and destroys the flavor. The fish is done when the flesh turns opaque and begins to flake easily with a fork. Serve with a portion of sauce.

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