Young and Hungry

Ba Bay Hires Former Sonoma Chef, Nick Sharpe

Ba Bay WCP group photo_opt

The Ba Bay Team: Khoa Nguyen, Sara Siegel, Nick Sharpe, and Denise Nguyen.

You've likely heard about the new Vietnamese restaurant taking over the former Locanda space on Capitol Hill. But maybe you haven't heard this: The forthcoming Ba Bay will feature Nick Sharpe in the kitchen.

For those who need a fast refresher, Sharpe used to be executive chef at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, which is, last time I dined there at least, not particularly Vietnamese. So what gives?

You could say Sharpe has connections.

He and Ba Bay principal owner, Khoa Nguyen, have a history together. About four years ago, they both worked under then chef R.J. Cooper at Vidalia, Sharpe in the kitchen and Nguyen at the front of the house. The two chefs (Nguyen has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America) stayed in touch as Sharpe jumped from Maestro in Tysons Corner to Fiamma in New York City to Mio in D.C. before finally landing at Sonoma in 2009.

Nguyen and his cousin, managing partner Denise Nguyen, understood that Sharpe, given his experiences in Cooper and Fabio Trabocchi's kitchens, would bring an element of refinement to the Vietnamese street dishes they planned to serve."It's just elevating what's already great," says Denise Nguyen during a recent phone call.

In order to start elevating, however, Sharpe first had to learn Vietnamese cuisine.  To do so, the cousins took Sharpe to a family member's home in Williamsburg, where he learned the background and the proper methods to make a number of Vietnamese dishes, from pho to caramelized clay pot chicken.

"In that regard," says Denise Nguyen, "it's a big creative push for him."

Sharpe is not alone in that regard, either. Khoa and Denise Nguyen have also hired Sara Siegel as sous chef and pastry chef. She has the chops for both jobs. She has not only worked the line at Mario Batali's Babbo in Greenwich Village but also pastry at — well, who would have guessed this? — Vidalia.

"It's sort of funny," says Denise Nguyen. "We have this Vidalia backbone here."

Hmm, this casual operation, with dishes ranging from $6 to $22, suddenly sounds like one of the most promising new restaurants in D.C. Look for it to open in November at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

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