When your job transitions you and your family to a new city, the path is never easy. For Sebastien Archambault, the new executive chef at the Blue Duck Tavern -- a fave of the Obamas -- his passion for cooking beautiful food was worth the trip.
“Of course I'm nervous coming to D.C.,” Archambault said. “There is such a high expectation by guests for this iconic, beautiful property here in Washington, D.C., I want to remain true to the roots of Blue Duck Tavern.”
Archambault has experience absorbing a local culture and translating it into his cooking. After all, he could be the only native Texan chef with a French accent.
Born in Lubbock, Texas, to a father who worked at Texas Instruments, Archambault saw his parents took their love of dining to the next step. They returned to Southwest France when Archambault was six months old to open a restaurant there.
"When I grew older, I worked weekends at my parents' restaurant, and cooking was my first passion," he said. "But in college I studied biology, chemistry and physics. I eventually realized it wasn"t for me.”
Leaving one science for another, Archambault began to hone his cooking skills. From 2000 to 2003, Sebastien worked in Paris for Jean-Francois Rouquette, the executive chef of Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, at Restaurant la Cantine des Gourmets.
He began as a line cook, later moving up to sous chef before accepting a position as the executive chef at Restaurant Champs-Elysees in Mexico, where he remained for two years, learning Spanish to excel in his new location. Then it was on to Corsica, working first at Restaurant Le Pirate before going on to launch his own chef consulting business with his wife.
Most recently he was working in West Hollywood as the executive chef of the Andaz West Hollywood hotel and its RH Restaurant. “It was a more casual place," he said. "Definitely not like Blue Duck Tavern, where my guests are in suits on their way to the White House!”
In fact, sometimes those patrons even call the White House home. The Obamas celebrated their anniversary there in 2009, and Michelle visited as recently as June -- fitting when you consider the first lady's crusade for healthy eating. Blue Duck prides itself on using local, organic and sustainable ingredients.
Archambault's been in the District since December, and he already has his plans in place. “The next six to eight months, I'm going to start meeting other chefs and get involved in the French community, and hopefully slowly meet with others,” he said.
A noble goal for a man who is still trying to put his personal touch on the Blue Duck Tavern menu, unpack his life, organize his house and get his wife and two kids settled in Washington.
“It's about balance,” Archambault said -- and if there was ever a city in which successful people learn to juggle several high-profile careers, it would have to be this one.