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Posted at 6:47 PM ET, 04/20/2009

Will Michel Move to Maestro?

By Tom Sietsema

"Pure speculation at this time."

Michel Richard may be opening up shop in the Tysons Corner Ritz-Carlton. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

That was the response I got from Mark Sherwin earlier today when I asked the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner if the online rumors about Michel Richard taking over the vacant Maestro space were true.

"No, no, no, no, no."

That's the reply I got from Richard this afternoon when I asked the acclaimed French chef the same question. "We are talking about it," he allowed a few minutes later, referring to the possibility of a new restaurant. "But nothing is signed."

I pressed. The Washington City Paper's Tim Carman was reporting on the Young & Hungry blog that the chef sent out informational packets to potential investors last week and that Group Goetz Architects had been tapped to redesign the former Italian dining room.

"Maybe, maybe, maybe," Richard said, softening his stance (and allowing that 20 letters were mailed). "I like the location. I like the idea of a nice hotel." He added that the Ritz is much closer to his home in Potomac.

Insiders say there are sticking points to securing any deal. Richard, for instance, has to raise more money than he figured on for a brand that is not as robust, financially or image-wise, as it used to be. Plus, the Ritz-Carlton remains in talks with other interested parties. "We don't want to put all our eggs in one basket," says Sherwin, who was down this road last year when it was rumored that the superstar British chef Gordon Ramsay had his eyes on the prize.

As for Michel Richard Citronelle in Georgetown's Latham Hotel, the chef tells me he's planning to "down-grade" the restaurant in light of "tough times." Out: a prix fixe menu and luxury ingredients. In: lower prices, new tables and new chairs.

-- Tom Sietsema

By Tom Sietsema  | April 20, 2009; 6:47 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  Tom Sietsema, maestro, michel richard  
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What does "downgrading Citronelle" mean? Isn't the whole point of the place to have one of the ultimate luxe meals?

Posted by: EricS2 | April 21, 2009 3:52 AM | Report abuse

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