Story by Andrew Gates
Photography Courtesy of Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP)
Chef Bryant Haren, the Executive Chef at BARCA Pier & Wine Bar, has always enjoyed cooking since he was a child. “I became a chef because I find the science of food to be riveting. Food for me has always been an expression of oneself through craft,” he says.
Originally from Carson, California, Chef Haren left California to study at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. “I was fortunate enough to go to school out of state, so it allowed me to fully immerse myself in not only my academics but my environment outside of school.” It was here that he began to build his network while working as a freelance caterer with local catering companies in the region.
While he found it challenging to be in New York so far from his family, Chef Haren believes the skills, networking, and mentorship he gained were worth it. Among those mentors was Chef Anita Eisenhauer, who he says was one of his most influential mentors.
In 2019, Chef Haren moved to the DC region. It was here that he found yet another mentor in Chef Brinn Sinnott of Fabio Trabocchi Restaurants.
Always setting his eyes on bigger and better things, Chef Haren would not stop there. After several interviews, he was eventually asked to perform a tasting for the upper management of Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP), before finally landing the role of Executive Chef at BARCA Pier & Wine Bar.
To create the new menu, Chef Haren worked with Corporate Chef Brandon Whitestone and pulled heavily from Spanish and Mediterranean recipes. The exciting menu includes tapas, sandwiches, queso y embutidos, and of course, wine. Nearly every dish can be adjusted to be gluten-free or low sodium.
Chef Haren is inspired by visits to local farms and traveling to other cities. “We use only the highest of ingredients. Meaning if the best jamon comes from Spain, we get it from Spain. If a local farmer has the best mushrooms, we will use them for mushrooms. It all depends on the product itself. The thing that is guaranteed is we do not falter on quality of product and guest experience.”
“I became a chef because I find the science of food to be riveting. Food for me has always been an expression of oneself through craft."
His favorite dish on the menu is the calamari. “The calamari is a balanced dish that takes you on an interesting journey. One gets the clean taste of the calamari, followed by the umami bomb from the chorizo, which gets balanced by the acidity of the gremolata. I love dishes that hit different notes all in one, that type of food interests me.”
Today, Chef Haren oversees 35 people and maintains a no-nonsense management style in the kitchen. “Everyone at all times knows where they stand with me. I believe that transparency and respect is the key to a successful and happy work environment.” This work environment allows them to get the job done while still having fun. “This keeps not only the situation light but makes you want to come to work because it's enjoyable to be around good people.”