JEFF TUNKS


Chef Jeff Tunks is one of the best and brightest in the ever-growing constellation of new American chefs. There are few who possess as much confidence, extended experience, fine business acumen, and as deep a passion for simply prepared seasonal foods. Underneath a six-foot-three exterior and styled chef whites is a man with the soul of an artist, the passion of a perfectionist, and an unquestionable devotion to running a top-notch kitchen.

Like many in his field, Tunks attended the Culinary Institute of America; unlike many, however, Tunks received the prestigious Frances L. Roth Award for outstanding performance. From there, he served an externship under Dean Ferring at the Veranda Club in Atlanta, transferring with him to the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, where Tunks worked at Mistral, a sister restaurant on the complex. There he met his mentor, the classically French-trained chef Takashi Shirmaizu. It was under Shirmaizu’s tutelage that Tunks was introduced to the idea that at the foundation of every great dish must be superior ingredients and solid cooking techniques. Additionally, Shirmaizu’s Eastern influence on Western cuisine became the base for Tunks’ cooking.

Tunks first landed in the nation’s capital in 1987, having been recruited as opening executive chef at the popular River Club Restaurant in Georgetown, where he experimented with varied dishes of the Mid-Atlantic region. In 1991 he ventured west to the luxury seaside resort Loew’s Coronado Bay, where he used the riches of the Pacific to his advantage at the award-winning Azzura Point. Tunks’ next challenge was yet again coastal, this time the Gulf coast. At The Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, Tunks secured a “Best Restaurant” rating from Gourmet in 1997 and he earned five Mobil stars for the Grill Room, the highest marks bestowed by the association. The Grill Room was the only new culinary establishment that year to acquire five stars.

Shortly after securing the Mobil rating, Tunks decided it was time to go it alone, taking a team of talented chefs with him from New Orleans. With the opening of DC Coast in June of 1998, Tunks created the perfect stage for his distinctive cuisine. Showcasing ingredients indigenous to the tri-coastal areas, Tunks developed a modern American cuisine all his own. A success from the outset, DC Coast has garnered outstanding reviews from Gourmet (one of the top 5 restaurants in Washington), Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Wine Spectator, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. In August 2000, Tunks and his partners launched TenPenh, where they have been delighting diners with Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine. Bon Appétit (one of the top tables in Washington), Wine Spectator, The Washington Post, Washingtonian magazine, Departures, and Travel + Leisure have praised TenPenh since it arrived on the DC restaurant scene. September 2003 saw the rise of yet another side of Tunks’ culinary passions, Latin American and the Caribbean fare, with the opening of Ceiba restaurant. Two years later amid great anticipation, in September 2005, Tunks launched Acadiana, featuring modern interpretations of Louisiana fish house classics, a cuisine dear to his heart since his years in New Orleans. It has been named one of The Top 20 Restaurants in America 2006 by Esquire Magazine.

Tunks was named Chef of the Year 2003-2004 by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Chefs. Washingtonian magazine named Tunks and his partners Restaurateurs of the Year in 2005. But never let it be said that one chef is an island. Tunks knows how to build a team to his best advantage. Over the years, his vision and good sense has created a diverse group of chefs who have helped him forge ahead with his dream projects: Cliff Wharton, Chef de Cuisine at TenPenh, followed Tunks to Washington from New Orleans; Wharton, who was raised in The Philippines, was a natural choice for TenPenh’s Asian-inspired menu. Chris Clime, Chef de Cuisine at Acadiana, has been with Tunks at both DC Coast and TenPenh, and was the Chef de Cuisine who opened Ceiba. Brendan Cox, Chef de Cuisine at DC Coast, brings a strong sense of Mid-Atlantic regional cuisine to the modern American seafood-based menu of DC Coast. One chef, four completely different types of cuisine. A satisfied Tunks can ride his wave.

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