Like many young chefs these days, Michael Friedman’s culinary career developed out of sheer happenstance. Hailing from Westfield, New Jersey, Friedman graduated from Boston University’s College of Communications before tackling his first position in a professional kitchen. He landed a job as a prep cook with a bustling French bistro, Mon Ami Gabi and from then on, he knew a cook’s life was for him. Friedman spent three years with Rich Melman’s Lettuce Entertain You group, rising to sous chef in just eight months before enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Friedman used his time wisely while in school, staging at notable restaurants in his off time, including Los Angeles’ Lucques and Morimoto in New York. At Danny Meyer’s The Modern in The Museum of Modern Art, he learned the true meaning of professionalism in the kitchen, and was taught to cook at a very high level with top-notch ingredients. Graduating at the top of his CIA class, he began working for famed Spanish Chef Jose Andres at his powerhouse Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, Zaytinya.
After two years as a chef with Chef Andres, Friedman left his mentor to travel the world. Eating through Italy, Greece, Turkey and Northern Africa, Friedman picked up the interesting and exciting nuances of each country. He headed back to the US and spent time staging in some influential kitchens, including San Francisco’s Incanto, Philadelphia’s Vetri and New York’s Scarpetta.
Mike returned to DC as Chef de Cuisine of Proof, a wine-centric restaurant specializing in local, seasonal fare. Under the tutelage of Executive Chef Haidar Karoum, Friedman learned to hone his craft and simplify his style to let the ingredients shine.
At his first solo venture, Friedman offers his guests at The Red Hen a focused selection of Italian-influenced dishes, interpreted with Mid-Atlantic ingredients – his version of modern comfort food. In The Red Hen’s opening year, it garnered two “RAMMY” awards from The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, including Best New Restaurant and Rising Culinary Star, and Friedman was selected as one of the People’s Best New Chefs by Food & Wine Magazine. The Red Hen also won the 2013 “Restaurant of the Year” award from Eater DC and was awarded three star reviews from both The Washington Post and Washingtonian Magazine.