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Slow Cooking, Sustainability, & Classic Techniques at Blue Duck Tavern

Cover Image for Slow Cooking, Sustainability, & Classic Techniques at Blue Duck Tavern
By Sophie Brochu

Since late 2019, Jean-Claude Plihon has overseen culinary F&B operations for the award-winning Blue Duck Tavern, in addition to 24-hour room service and banquet operations at Washington, DC’s Park Hyatt. A native of Bretagne, France, Plihon trained in Michelin-starred kitchens, then spent time working in Egypt, Barbados, California, Kansas City, and Dallas. At Blue Duck Tavern, French cooking techniques and regional ingredients are used to create classic American cuisine with an artisan approach. We spoke with chef Plihon about local farms, slow cooking, and sustainability.

What does classic American cuisine mean to you?

Plihon: I like to describe it as a melting pot with so many wonderful cultures, both native/local and from all over the world. Personally, I find it fascinating, as there is such a broad, diverse food philosophy. For us, at Blue Duck Tavern, the focus remains on regional farm-to-table. We like to revisit classic American dishes and make them different, but still with the fundamental flavors.

Chef Jean-Claude Plihon.

Congratulations on your recent induction into the prestigious Maîtres Cuisiniers de France. In what ways do you incorporate French tradition into your culinary practice?

Plihon: The most important part of the Maîtres Cuisiniers relates to our values and focus on quality, which have always been expected at Blue Duck Tavern, with a constant research for excellence. As for tradition, Blue Duck Tavern is an American tavern featuring farm-to-table cuisine; however, many of our cooking techniques are French. Lots of slow cooking goes on and it’s delicious.

“Lots of slow cooking goes on and it’s delicious.”

What dish on the menu are you most excited about?

Plihon: All of them, but I would say our duck and short ribs are top of the list.

Whole roasted duck.

Each dish on the menu includes the name of a farm or place of origin. Can you elaborate on the importance of sourcing from artisanal purveyors? And how does this help to elicit a sense of place?

Plihon: This is the foundation of Blue Duck Tavern. Establishing partnerships with local farms and artisans is of utmost importance to us. Every item served at Blue Duck Tavern must have an origin, traceability, and a story. We are selective and this is a crucial part of our job, researching for farmers and companies, which are passionate about quality, the environment, and sustainability.

“Every item served at Blue Duck Tavern must have an origin, traceability, and a story.”

Is there a particular farm or purveyor you especially enjoy working with?

Plihon: I love them all and I have so much respect for what they do. They are all phenomenal and we are so lucky to work with such passionate farmers and purveyors.  I have a particular passion for farming, which came from my family, but that’s a long story.

The floor-to-ceiling wine cellar.

What does an average day look like for you?

Plihon: It starts in the morning, checking in with the teams, both kitchens, restaurant, banquet and other departments. Often, I spend time at the pass at Blue Duck Tavern in the AM. I communicate with key kitchen leaders, the chef de cuisine, executive sous-chef, pastry chef, and sous-chefs. We review special events, VIP amenities, food orders, check product quality, sanitation, many projects, to name a few tasks but it’s much more than that… Blue Duck Tavern is part of the Park Hyatt Hotel and with that comes many variables on a daily basis—and I enjoy every minute of it.

Rockfish with artichoke, fava bean, and romesco.

What’s next for Blue Duck Tavern?

Plihon: With our very talented Team, chef de cuisine Drew Allen, general manager Joseph Cerione and pastry chef Colleen Murphy, lots of innovative R&D is under process and we look forward to creating and evolving our dining experiences to new levels. Expect a new tasting menu in addition to new à la carte by the fall of ’22. Also, look out for the Masters of Food and Wine, coming up in September. It’s very unique.

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