Chefs Jeff and Barbara Black, owners of the Black Restaurant Group, had plans in place to build their dream home on a two-acre lot they’d purchased in Bethesda. The only problem was that their restaurant openings kept getting in the way. First, it was Black Market Bistro. Then BlackSalt. Then Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. The new house was relegated to the back burner for so long, the couple eventually concluded that they didn’t need another construction project in their busy lives.
So they sold the land, plans and all. Soon after, they happened upon a gracious new home in Chevy Chase built by Sandy Spring Builders. They loved its light-filled interiors, generous floor plan and thoughtfully designed kitchen. It was soon a done deal.
The Blacks and their sons, Oliver and Simon, now 12 and 14, easily settled into the new residence three years ago. It offered some obvious improvements over their former home—a charming 1853 Victorian in Kensington with a cramped, outdated kitchen and one bathroom (the new house has eight). “We loved our old house, but if you put a golf ball on the floor,” Barbara recalls, “it rolled.” And two chefs at work in its galley kitchen was a recipe for disaster.
“The first time we cooked in the new house,” Jeff marvels, “we didn’t even argue. It physically works very well.”
Architect George Myers of GTM Architects designed the center-hall Colonial-style home to blend into the fabric of its historic neighborhood. While the exterior clapboard and front porch harken back to earlier times, the interiors suit a 21st-century lifestyle.
Working with Myers and the builder, kitchen designer Amy Collins created the kitchen’s functional layout with two distinct work zones: a clean-up and storage area along the exterior wall and a prep and cooking area near the six-burner Wolf range. Her “quiet design” combines Wood-Mode cabinets in a vintage white finish and a darker Brookhaven island for contrast.
Barbara furnished the interiors of the home with a mix of antiques and transitional finds. Like the couple’s restaurants (which also include Black’s Bar & Kitchen), the décor is classic, with a collected style and respect for natural materials. “One of the things we try to achieve in the restaurants also ties into the house,” says Jeff. “A home needs to feel like a home and the restaurants need to feel like a place where you can come and feel comfortable too.”
With a portfolio of five popular restaurants and a couple of new concepts in the wings, this energetic couple—who met as students at New York’s Culinary Institute of America—manages the 24-7 demands of the business with aplomb. Jeff oversees the savory menus and day-to-day operations of the restaurants, each of which has its own executive chef and manager. Barbara runs back-office operations and leads the pastry program—and most often cooks for the boys if they are not dining out at one of their own hot spots. (Pearl Dive’s Fried Catfish BLT, which is topped with a fried egg, is a current favorite.)
After Simon was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, the couple formed the Black’s Family Foundation to support the needs of children. They recently raised $200,000 to build a kitchen in the new diabetes complex at Children’s Hospital, projected to open in 2013.
“We try to support local communities,” says Jeff. “Local is not just going to the farmers’ market to buy produce—local is everything. It’s the banks, the dry cleaners, the contractors. When you keep community strong, everybody prospers.”
8 oz. Nantucket Bay Scallops, side muscle removed
5 garlic cloves, profile sliced
1 shallot, julienne
1/4 cup Piquillo Peppers, roasted, skinned, seeded and chopped julienne
12 pistachios, roasted and chopped
1 Tablespoon thyme leaves
Parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 oz. unsalted butter
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
In a very hot cast iron pan, add 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add scallops and season. When they are caramelized, push them aside. Add garlic and shallots, sweat until they shallots are translucent without color. Deglaze pan with chicken stock. Add peppers, lemon juice, thyme and butter.Taste sauce and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Finish with the parsley and pistachios. Enjoy.