Behind the Lines at PassionFish
Jeff Tunks attracting diners with fresh fish flown in from across the globe.
In 33 years as a chef, Jeff Tunks says he never has a boring day.
"I've seen just about everything there is to see in the restaurant business," he says.
Tunks was already an accomplished chef and restaurant entrepreneur with a group that includes successful DC restaurants DC Coast, TehPenh and Ceiba before venturing across the Potomac to open PassionFish at Reston Town Center in October 2008 .
Tunks attended the Culinary Institute of America, where he received the prestigious Frances L. Roth Award for outstanding performance. Early in his career he worked at the Grill Room in New Orleans, earning a Gourmet Magazine "best restaurant" rating. He opened his first restaurant, DC Coast, in 1998.
Tunks' goal was to bring a downtown experience to Northern Virginia, as well as his simply prepared, high-quality seafood. The Reston location was a good fit for Tunks personally, as he lived in Oakton with his family. It makes the long days and late nights manageable.
A ittle over two years after its opening, PassionFish is quite successful.
Tunks says downtown and Reston diners differ in several ways. No. 1 - the suburbs are heavy on families. Those families dine out.
"You would never see the same number of young kids in one of our downtown restaurants," says Tunks. " Sometimes we have a Saturday all- family first seating [in Reston]. Our kids' menu has homemade applesauce, baby carrots, and veggie sushi."
Tunks also says Reston diners "like to be the captain of their own ships," which is why the PassionFish menu allows patrons to pick from a variety of fresh fish and side dishes. He thinks it empowers the customers and enhances their dining experience.
Does he have a signature dish? "Probably Chinese style smoked lobster with deep fried spinach," he says.
In his spare time, Tunks chairs the Southern Food and Beverage Museum board of directors. Located in New Orleans, the museum discovers and celebrates food, drink and the related culture of the South.
Food is only one - albeit the most important - factor in running a restaurant, Tunks says.
Tunk hires staff, manages finances, oversees marketing and publicity among a myriad other tasks. Even the smallest details have his attention. Tunks proudly points out PassionFish's nautical art, the lighting resembling ocean bubbles and the lighthouse salt and pepper shakers.