Ris Lacoste, Executive Chef of 1789 Restaurant in Washington, D.C.
A native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Doris Yvonne Lacoste, known as Ris by family
and friends, grew up in a household that emphasized the importance of hospitality and
good food. Lacoste’s college education included pre-med biology studies at the
University of Rochester and a degree in French from University of California at
Berkeley, where she also worked as the assistant general manager at the University’s
Faculty Club. It was her French language postgraduate studies in Paris that introduced her
to Anne Willan and the famous La Varenne Cooking School in France, where Ris earned
her Grand Diplôme.
After a stint as the sous chef for Buddy Bombard’s Great French Balloon Adventure in
Burgundy, Lacoste returned to the USA in 1982 to join Chef Bob Kinkead at the Harvest
Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Together they opened 21 Federal in Nantucket
in 1985, Twenty-One Federal in Washington, D.C. in 1987, and Kinkead’s in 1993. In
January 1992, Washingtonian magazine named them “Restaurateurs of the Year.”
In 1995 Ris Lacoste became the Executive Chef of 1789 Restaurant, bringing about an
unprecedented level of success for this 42-year-old Georgetown landmark. Lacoste was
named “Chef of the Year” in 1999 and 1789 Restaurant was chosen as “Restaurant of
the Year” in 2000 by The Capital Restaurant & Hospitality Awards program in
Washington. During her tenure, 1789 has maintained its DiRoNA Award-winning status
as well. 1789 Restaurant received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for its
noteworthy wine list in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, and The Washington Post and
Washingtonian magazine both rank 1789 Restaurant as one of the best in the nation’s
capital with Ris Lacoste at the forefront.
Lacoste’s innovative regional American fare and attention to service garnered her an
invitation in 1996 to be the featured chef at the James Beard House in New York for the
21st anniversary celebration of La Varenne. In 1999 she was nominated for the James
Beard Foundation “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region”and then invited to be the guest chef
at the notable Greenbrier resort’s La Varenne. She also returned in 2002 to cook for the
James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards Dinner.
In 2003, Lacoste was a guest chef at the renowned Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN and
a featured chef at Gourmet magazine’s Food & Wine Appreciation Weekend at the Boca
Raton Resort & Club in Florida. Furthermore, Pride Mountain Vineyards and Chef Ris
Lacoste donated a wine and dinner package at the June 2003 Napa Valley Wine Auction,
which sold for $34,000 raising much needed funds for health care services as well as
local youth programs in the Napa Valley.
In 2004, she was a featured guest chef at Gourmet’s culinary event in Niagara Falls and
also won the DC Central Kitchen’s “Capital Bite Night” competition beating other
notable chefs such as Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia and Bistro Bis; Roberto Donna of Galileo;
Cesare Lanfranconi of Ristorante Tosca; Kaz Okochi of Kaz Sushi Bistro; Fabio
Trabocchi of Maestro; Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s and James Beard New York Chef
of the Year 2003, Marcus Samuelsson. Lacoste also produced a PBS documentary
“Cooking for Julia” that aired locally in 2004 and will air nationally in 2005.
In addition to her role as 1789’s executive chef, Ris Lacoste generously volunteers her
time within the community. An active member of the National Board of Directors for the
American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF), Ris also served as Chairman of its
National Capital Area Chapter for four years, penning a column for their membership
newsletter Capital Wine & Food, as well. Lacoste also participates annually in
fundraising efforts for Taste of the Nation, Zoofari, Share Our Strength, DC Rape Crisis
Center, St. Jude Hospital for Children, and Food and Friends in Washington, DC. She is
also an active supporter of Washington’s local farmers’ markets.
A talented educator, Lacoste serves on the Board of Trustees and is a mentor for the
Marriott Hospitality Public Charter High School, which focuses on enhancing the
educational opportunities for students pursuing careers in the hospitality industry.
Lacoste is a mentor for L’Academie de Cuisine, the area’s well-regarded culinary school,
assisting with the continuing culinary development of many of their promising students.
Ris Lacoste’s professional affiliations and memberships include the International
Women’s Forum, the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP),
Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), the James Beard Foundation and the Restaurant
Association of Metropolitan Washington. She is also a regular contributor for the
national cooking magazine, Fine Cooking.