Carlyle Club and Rock Harper Part Ways
That was fast! Hired in May to boost business at the struggling Carlyle Club in Alexandria, Rahman "Rock" Harper was dismissed -- via e-mail -- on Friday. "They couldn't afford me anymore," says the 32-year-old chef, a season three winner on the reality TV show "Hell's Kitchen" who came to the Carlyle from Next Door on U Street.
General manager Larry O'Connor confirmed the layoff and the manner in which the news was communicated to Harper. ("My phone had died," O'Connor explained.) While he praised Harper for reorganizing the kitchen and introducing a fixed price menu, he added, "Rock's got a lot going on" outside the establishment.
Harper countered that his extra activities were "not out of the ordinary" for a local chef. Besides, "I put in 60 hours a week" at the restaurant, he said.
Is everyone on the same page? Owner Brennan Reilly says he thought the decision to part ways with his chef was a mutual one. Right now, "we're minimizing expenses until we see some improvement in the economy," he says. "We could not [continue to] showcase him as a chef." After Harper came aboard, the Carlyle cut its dinner schedule from five nights to three.
Almost from the start, Harper says he was unhappy with the way in which the Carlyle Club handled his arrival. There were no introductions or meetings, he says. Outside the restaurant, his mug and "Hell's Kitchen" tenure were plugged on a big placard, which Harper branded "desperate and cheesy."
"I don't try to sell that part of my game," he said.
Taking his place at the stove: Curtis Byrd, who has been the acting chef at the Caryle.
-- Tom Sietsema
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