With this new upgrade and atmosphere, härth hopes to give its customers an experience like never before. “I want them to have had an emotional connection with the food and with the restaurant,” said Elder, härth restaurant head chef. Elder says the key to being a great chef is “perfecting of the basics” and he works on his skills every single day in the kitchen.
Recently, WashingtonExec had a chance to interview Elder about the new renovations (or “reinvention” as he likes to call it) at the McLean Hilton hotel and what it’s like to be the top chef at härth.
Tom Elder: We have referred to our renovation as not just a renovation but a reinvention. Our reinvention isn’t just about design it’s about design and the customer experience. We have a living room-inspired lobby with an iconic 18-hour bar and a 23 hour Technology Lounge, 458 redesigned guest rooms, over 27,000 square feet of reinvented meeting space and ballrooms, a brand new fitness center, and of course, härth – a 120-seat restaurant featuring fresh American comfort foods.
WashingtonExec: What kind of dining experience do you hope people will leave with after they visit härth restaurant?
Tom Elder: When a diner leaves härth, I want them to have had an emotional connection with the food and with the restaurant. With our menu and décor we hope to create a truly memorable experience that a person would want to recreate again and again.
WashingtonExec: Why is it an important part of härth’s mission to support local farmers and use seasonal ingredients?
Tom Elder: There are endless reasons to support local farmers and use seasonal ingredients. First and foremost there is the heath benefit of eating ripe, fresh, quality ingredients. I also want to do my part to reduce our carbon footprint. härth is unique in it’s metropolitan location but so close to the Virginia Countryside. We are passionate about using the only the freshest ingredients to create the highest quality product possible. I keep four bee hives on the roof. These four hives have produced over 200 pounds of honey for the restaurant this year and also helped to pollinate my own organic herb garden. I grown a variety of mint for our mojitos, ten of the world’s hottest peppers and various other fresh produce.
WashingtonExec: If you had to select one cookbook that every professional chef should own, what would that be?
Tom Elder: I would have to say Jacques Pépin’s “Complete Techniques,” because all great food starts with the perfection of the basics.
WashingtonExec: What is the most unique dish that you have ever tasted?
Tom Elder: When I was younger, I was at a farmer’s market on the West coast, and I had started talking to a fisherman there. He brought out a sea urchin he just brought in, cut it open, and gave it to me to eat. At that point, it tasted like the ocean, but creamy. It was amazing.
WashingtonExec: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Tom Elder: At this point in my career it is definitely in training new chefs. There is nothing more rewarding then seeing them learn a new technique or flavor combination and watching that undeniable gleam in their eye.