Wed 12 Aug 2009
If you’ve been watching Twitter or reading some of our fellow bloggers from NoVA, then you know that Kora, Chef Morou Ouattara’s new restaurant, has been days away from opening for, well, days now. There were rumors they would open last Monday. Then delays led to a goal of Thursday – which became Friday or Monday.
Chef Morou got some good news yesterday, though, and he wasted no time in sharing it with his fans by tweet. With all of the necessary permits and paperwork in place, Kora has gotten the green light from the city of Arlington and will be opening its doors officially at lunch on Thursday. Bye-bye Bebo, hello Kora.
We caught up with Chef Morou (he prefers to be called by his first name) at the restaurant, where he was getting ready for the opening, and asked him a few questions about the new place and how it will – and won’t – compare to Farrah Olivia:
Capital Spice: Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us, Chef. By now a lot of people have talked about what Kora is going to look like and what will be on the menu. But how would you describe this restaurant relative to Farrah Olivia?
Morou Ouattara: This is definitely not going to be Farrah Olivia, though we’re certainly going to be give the same close attention to the quality of the food and the service as we did there. Kora is meant to be more cost-conscious…more casual. But we want people to see that these things don’t mean that we’re going to be cutting corners.
CS: Will you be the only one coming over to Kora?
MO: With Farrah Olivia closing temporarily, we’ve been able to bring quite a few staff over to the new restaurant. My wife, Heather, will be handling the front of the house as she did [at Farrah Olivia]. And much of the kitchen staff at Kora will be coming with me.
More from Morou after the jump.
CS: Are you looking forward to working with your brother (Chef Amadou Ouattara has most recently run his own restaurant, Salvia, in Middleburg, VA)?
MO: Absolutely. Amadou has been doing Italian cuisine for twenty-two years now, and his experience will show through in the food.
CS: Have you been frustrated with the delays that have pushed back your opening date a few times now?
MO: Frustrated, yes, but also very impressed with everyone I worked with in the city. They were as helpful as they could be. Toward the end, it seemed that everyone in the permitting office knew me without even having to give my name.
CS: You mentioned on Twitter that you are planning “a very slow opening” tonight, as a dry run of sorts to get things ready for tomorrow. Are you worried that you’ll be slammed now that word has gotten out?
MO: I really hope not. We’d like to do this slowly, to make sure we’ve got everything right. But we appreciate all of the eagerness!
CS: You’ve been a competitor on Iron Chef America as well as a contestant in the original “The Next Iron Chef” series. Do you think it sends any kind of message to the rest of the country to see so many chefs from the DC area competing in these types of shows?
MO: Absolutely. To me, of course, it’s understood that Washington should be a great dining city. Some of the country’s best chefs have been cooking here for decades. Before there was Mario Battali, Washington had Roberto Donna. We had Jean-Louis Palladin – Eric Ripert cooked under him! And even now we have Michel Richard. We have so many ethnicities coming together here in DC, we should be great at food.
CS: And as a former competitor, do you have any advice for chefs who may be considering participating in these shows?
MO: If you want to do it, do it for the right reasons. These shows provide great exposure and an excellent PR opportunity for chefs, especially those who are running their own restaurants and don’t have a lot of money to put toward raising people’s awareness of what they’re doing. They can really be a win-win-win: good for the chef, good for the restaurant, and good for the city as a whole.
CS: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Chef. Best of luck with your soft opening tonight and your official opening tomorrow.
MO: Thank you. I hope to see you at Kora soon.
Kora officially opens for lunch tomorrow.