The Mo-Yoke and Three Chefs

Boy, are the folks over at MCM (Montgomery Community Media) giving me the mo-yoke (my grandma Bosco’s – evil eye). It seems that I have not blogged for them in a while. And I have not uploaded to this my page in a while either.

Well, I was busy.

How busy you ask (sounding like the GEICO commercial guitar picker)?

I was busier than all the sous chefs at Jaleo, Chef Geoff’s or the Peppers/Monsoon Indian combined and trust me – they are very busy.

To bring y’all up to speed – in a span of one week I photographed three unique chefs. Chef José Andrés of Yaleo, Chef Geoff Tracy of Chef Geoff and Chef Mike Bhatnagar of Peppers/Monsoon Indian. All are Montgomery County residents and all own/operate restaurants in the county.

I held up writing about them until the articles and photos (I worked on) were published – which all happened this past week.

I found it puzzling how to compare all three. Chef José Andrés and Chef Geoff are young and in their forties; Chef Mike is a little grayer but has been a chef for 40 years. All started young in the business and all three did everything from washing dishes moving up to cooking for dignitaries – maybe that should be my angle.

Their retail presence varies with restaurants in street locations such as in Bethesda, Tysons Corner and Penn’s Quarter in NW DC (Yaleo); to Northwest DC, Rockville, Chevy Chase and Tysons (Chef Geoff); to a second floor retail walk up in Gaithersburg (Peppers/ Monsoon Indian).

Chef Jose Andres of ThinkFoodGroup

Chef José Andrés is the father of the Tapas craze. He opened his first restaurant on 7th Street in NW DC in 1993 six years before the Verizon Center moved into the neighborhood. He is credited with jump-starting the revival of the Penn Quarter area of NW DC. These days Chef José is concerned with philanthropic, educational and humanitarian projects. He has lectured at Harvard and this spring at George Washington University. He is concerned with the influences of food on the world politic. He fights hunger both locally and globally.


Some consider him among the 100 most influential individuals in the world. PS: his latest project is working on the film Hannibal, the great military commander – consulting on what foods Hannibal’s troops would have eaten in his native Spain (Iberia) – as they transited the European continent on its’ way to Italy.

Chef Geoff Taylor was a theology/philosophy student at Georgetown University. One day in his teens he was challenged by a restaurant owner to work a busboy job – and they say the rest is history. Today he runs (together with his brother) four Chef Geoff’s and the Lia’s in Chevy Chase. He views himself as the creative officer but don’t let that fool you – he has done everything up the restaurant chain of command.

Chef Geoff Tracy

Married to Georgetown graduate Nora O’Donnell, co-anchor of CBS This Morning, Chef Geoff splits time here in Montgomery County with another home closer to New York City. He has been seen on NBC”s The Today Show demonstrating his cooking for millions and Matt Lauer.

Last, but certainly not least, is Chef Mike Bhatnagar of Peppers/Monsoon Indian in Gaithersburg. Chef Mike is trained and educated in the food industry studying both in his native India and in the US (Cornell University), in this his adopted homeland. Ever the journeyman Chef Mike worked as executive chef for Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn, Sheraton and the Hilton chains.

Chef Mike’s welcome

He owned and operated Peppers in Los Angeles, with locations in Manhattan Beach and Hollywood. ARAMARK, his last employer, brought him to the DC area where he now has a catering business and his own restaurant Peppers/Monsoon Indian. It was there up on the second floor that I noticed his menu board above the kitchen – it had every type of ethnic cuisine listed. He can cook anything – and has done so for many dignitaries, Presidents, Pope John II and even Jackie O.

Chef Mike

So now given the choice of all these fine establishments which one will I sit down and eat at after I put down my camera for the night?

Well, to be honest I think that Chef Mike’s beautiful wife, Jyoti, would give me the mo-yoke if I did not return with my wife to sit and listen to them spin stories while Chef Mike was back in the kitchen cooking up Grandma Bosco’s favorite – spaghetti and meatballs.

“Manga, manga Phillie”