Photography by Geoffrey Hodgdon
A graduate of The French Culinary Institute in New York—now renamed the International Culinary Center (ICC) with its program expansion into Italian, Spanish, and Wine Studies—Chef Jonathan Seningen spent four years in New York City working at renowned restaurants before returning to Washington, D.C. to train under Chef Yannick Cam of Le Paradou. During his time in D.C., Seningen was chef at OYA, Hook, SAX, and Elizabeth’s Gone Raw. He then opened DIRT, a farm-to-table fast-casual eatery in Miami. Upon returning home to Maryland, Seningen came on board as the Executive Chef at Blackwall Hitch– Annapolis in 2016.
Looking Good: Why did you want to become a chef?
Chef Seningen: I started working in restaurants on Maryland’s Eastern Shore when I was 15 years old. I graduated from The French Culinary Institute and trained in New York’s top kitchens before moving Washington, D.C. to train under Chef Yannick Cam at Le Paradou. At that point I’d been cooking for over 10 years and set my mind to become a chef.
LG: How do you define Chesapeake cooking (special flavors, seasonings, etc.)?
CS: Put Old Bay on everything! Kidding! Use regional seafood and fresh produce and don’t try to make it something it’s not. Simple, fresh food prepared simply. Fresh grilled peaches and tomatoes; figs and fresh spicy greens; grilled blue fish with lots of oregano; whole fried flounder; corn roasted in its husk; lots of oysters and game when they’re in season. Keep it fresh and work with the natural flavors.
LG: What is the secret to a great crab cake?
CS: Use your mother’s recipe and don’t screw it up. Aside from that, don’t overthink it. Don’t go too heavy on the binding agents—eggs and mayo—use just enough to hold the crab together.
LG: What is your favorite dish at Blackwall Hitch?
CS: Since our menus change with the season, I like many things. With the daily chef’s specials and the chef’s table wine dinner each month, I’m able to present foods not normally seen on the menu. I enjoy the food and discussion with guests and testing culinary boundaries.
LG: How do you order a healthy meal at any restaurant?
CS: Well, if you have a specific diet request or eating lifestyle, I always recommend calling in advance. If you want to eat healthy anywhere, eat clean foods—no butter sauces, fried food, cream, processed things, etc.—just simple cooked protein and vegetables. Most chefs roll their eyes at special requests on a busy night, but at the end of the day, I’m here to cook for you.
Blackwall Hitch, theblackwallhitch.com