As the Hay-Adams Hotel names its newest executive chef, Nicolas Legret, we look back at the locale’s tenure under Patrick Clark.
After a two-year stint at the Italian-inspired Bice in Beverly Hills, chef Patrick Clark arrived in the country’s bustling capitol. Long before that, he had cut his teeth in New York City, putting what was once a fledgling Tribeca on the map with his new American cooking at the Odeon, and on the Upper West Side at Cafe Luxembourg.
The news that his east coast return would come by way of DC created a buzz in the beltway. From the get-go, Clark made bold strides against the conservative food town, deriding the cobb salad, and opting for modern choices like the crisp sautéed rock bass finished with oven-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives.
Clark served dishes that would make mouths water: hearty duck ravioli, tuna carpaccio, grilled flank steak salad, spit-roasted chicken, hot-and-sour soup, oyster and spinach shepherd’s pie, and roasted halibut on risotto.
His cooking won him many fans in the capitol including, at the time, former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton. He earned his first and only James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” at the Hay-Adams, and garnered an invitation to serve as White House executive chef, an offer he declined to accept, before leaving to become executive chef of Tavern on the Green in 1995.
Clark sadly passed away in 1998 at just 42, but his triumphs successfully demonstrated that chefs and restaurateurs could push cooking out from under its conservative roots, ultimately setting the capitol on course to becoming one of the nation’s largest and most diverse food cities.