After more than a decade of appearing on culinary TV shows and cooking for celebrities, a D.C. native returned to open a Foggy Bottom restaurant.
Brian Hill worked as a private chef for celebrities like Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Eddie Murphy but now can be found riding his bike around the District delivering orders for Chef Brian’s Comfort Kitchen, which he opened at 19th and K streets at the end of August. The fast-casual style restaurant showcases a soul-filled, yet healthy-take on comfort food while blending elements of Caribbean and traditional American cuisine. The restaurant will accept GWorld by the end of the month, he said.
In addition to catering to celebrities in Los Angeles since 2002, Hill has also appeared as a contestant on Top Chef’s first season, a star on Food Network’s reality show Private Chefs of Beverly Hills and as a celebrity guest judge on both Master Chef and Master Chef Junior. Even after rubbing elbows with celebrities in the kitchen, Hill said he doesn’t care about the fame – he just loves to cook.
“I didn’t come into this for the big money or for the fame,” Hill said. “I came into it because I love it.”
Chef Brian’s Comfort Kitchen swaps heavy comfort food like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese for healthier options that are still hearty. His succinct menu features just nine recipes that have stuck with him over the years like a chesapeake salmon salad and a BLT sandwich with onions – both personal favorites of Mary J. Blige, he said.
I sampled the chesapeake salmon salad ($13) which was a smart combination of sweet ingredients like golden raisins alongside savory components, such as a slightly spicy dressing and crunchy homemade tortilla chips, nicknamed “crack chips” by the chef. The dish served as my lunch and more than held me over for the next eight hours, which is rare for a salad.
The oven roasted tequila lime chicken and vegetable bowl ($12) likewise left me impressed and satiated. The dish had a unique take on a southwest flavor and featured fresh yams, pineapple, tomatoes and arugula all topped off with tender chicken marinated in lime, tequila and heavy seasonings.
“This food, even though it’s comfort food, it’s my idea of comfort food,” he said.
Despite Hill’s near celebrity chef standing, the restaurant had a friendly vibe and was affordable with no menu items exceeding $13 for a large, hearty portion. Hill said his goal in cooking isn’t to gain stardom, he simply wants to serve people delicious food.
“I could give a rat’s ass about winning a James Beard award,” he said. “I’m trying to impress the eater.”
Inside, restaurant-goers order with the enthusiastic and friendly staff at the cash register and can choose to eat their meal at the modern steel stools and picnic tables or take it to go. The restaurant will likely be a popular grab-and-go spot when they are open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays for the employees of offices on K street. The restaurant is also open on weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Hill, who grew up in Petworth, adds to the accessibility of his restaurant by greeting customers outside and explaining the menu to them at the door. He also spends his days delivering orders himself on a bike or by foot to customers who order by calling the restaurant.
“Oh no, I’m not playing around,” he said. “I deliver it myself.”