Very few (if any) chefs on this list can claim First Lady Michelle Obama as one of their most frequent customers, but Spike Mendelsohn is in a class by himself. You may recognize Spike from his frequent appearances on “Top Chef,” “Bar Rescue,” CBS’ “Early Show” and “Iron Chef,” but don’t think of him as just a TV chef; Spike has also won the Francis Roth Leadership Award and Burger Bash 2009.
Born in Montreal, Quebec and raised in Florida, Spike began his culinary career at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). After graduating from the CIA, Spike worked in kitchens around the globe, including in Gerard Boyer’s kitchen in Reims, France, with Thomas Keller in Napa Valley, with Sirio Maccioni at Le Cirque, and at New York City’s Mai House.
In 2008, Spike opened his first solo restaurant, Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, D.C. (one of the First Lady’s local restaurants of choice). Since then, he has opened two locations of We, The Pizza, and next door to Good Stuff Eatery, he opened Béarnaise; all of his restaurants have received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
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As the latest in a long line of chefs in his family, Spike has been exposed to the dining industry for long enough that he knew exactly what he wanted out of his solo restaurants. He once said in an interview with Serious Eats, “Fine dining, white tablecloths, tasting menus-it all seems really played out.” At We, The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery, Spike’s main focus is on classic American dishes- using his considerable prowess and lifetime of training, Spike is able to inject some panache into what would otherwise be dull meals in the hands of a less-experienced chef. Dishes such as the Spike’s Sunnyside (made with fresh cheese, applewood bacon and a farm-fresh fried egg on a brioche bun) and the Michelle Melt (free-range turkey burger with caramelized onions, swiss, ruby tomato and lettuce served on a wheat bun) speak to his capacity to make even the most traditional of American meals fresh and inviting.
At Béarnaise, the focus is more on traditional French cuisine. Spike’s crispy duck breast with orange kaffir lime glaze, pickled shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and a crispy spring roll add an Asian flair to a traditionally French offering, while the braised short rib with celery root & carrot purée, bordelaise and pickled gooseberries trends more towards the “traditional” side.