Harbor Court chef cooks up a turnover pleasing to all involved

THE REAL DISH

January 10, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

When restaurant chef J. Ashley Sharpe resigned from Harbor Court recently, the person least surprised was his boss, Michael Rork. That's because Mr. Rork had set up an interview for his assistant with Paolo's general manager, Kevin Bonner.

Starting tomorrow, Mr. Sharpe, who ran Hampton's and Brighton's in Harbor Court, becomes the executive chef of Paolo's in Harborplace.

While some may see it as a step down for the 29-year-old, Mr. Sharpe says he was ready for a change. "I've been doing formal dining for six years. I wanted to . . . get away from having truffles after every meal. This way I can do some good basic food and enjoy myself," he says.

The deal is also sweet for Mr. Bonner, who expects the new chef -- and the snazzy specials he has planned, like mushroom cannelloni and duck stuffed with olives and sun-dried tomatoes -- to help the Harborplace restaurant regain the ground it lost to the new Paolo's in Towson.

But where does all this leave Mr. Rork? The executive chef of Harbor Court concedes it may be counterproductive to find jobs for veteran employees, but he says it's important for their development.

"After somebody's been with me for a while, it's time for them to go out on their own," he says. "I'll help set them up anywhere I can."

And waiting in the wings was 26-year-old Peter Fontaine, who has been promoted to restaurant chef there.

On the new restaurant front, China Clipper Restaurant and Lounge has opened in Catonsville. Owned by Ricky Shum, who also runs the Jade Tree in Annapolis and Hunan Szechuan in Towson, this month-old venture features Sichuan, Hunan and Cantonese dishes served in a decor with soft pink walls and mahogany wood panels.

Gabriel Baziz, more commonly known as "Gabe the Felafel King," will open Gabriel's Cafe in Baltimore Jan. 21. After 20 years of serving his specialty at local fairs and festivals, he's yielding to pressure from friends who have been asking for a place to sit down and enjoy his food. Look for Middle Eastern, Moroccan, French and Israeli influences on the menu.

Kenny Rogers can sing, but can he roast a chicken? We'll find out Feb. 1, when Kenny Rogers Roasters opens in Owings Mills at the Festival at Woodholme. "It's somewhere between fast food and not fast food," says Jim Cornett, who is running the franchise with his two sons. (He also owns Hooters restaurants in Pittsburgh and Richmond.)

In addition to wood-roasted chicken, the 90-seat restaurant will serve pasta, salads and fresh vegetables.

Any chance Kenny will turn up for the opening?

"No," says Mr. Cornett. "His brother Randy will probably come."

For those who didn't get invited to an inaugural ball, there's an alternative in Hampden.

Following up on her successful election night salute to family values (families watched televised election returns over plates of spaghetti), Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon, has organized a celebration that's both a farewell to George Bush and a welcome to Bill Clinton.

Loyal Democrats can chow down on fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. For the Republicans, there will be roast beef, mashed potatoes and no broccoli.

The espresso bar at Borders Book Shop has only been open a month, but two art students from Towson State University have already set an impressive record for the longest visit.

During two days last month, they spent 20 hours cramming for their finals there.

Did they try some quiche, nibble on croissants or go for the top-selling chocolate rum truffle cake?

Nope, says manager Martin Good.

"They had plain black coffee," he says. "We have free refills. I think they went through a pot each day."

No word yet on how they did on their exams.

Have news about local restaurants, chefs or clubs? Call (410) 332-6156 or write the Real Dish, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, 21278.

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