September #VaSpiritsMonth Tastemaker: Executive Chef John Critchley of Rocksalt Restaurants & Brine Restaurant

Corporate Executive Chef Chef John Critchley of Rocksalt Restaurants, & Brine Restaurant

Corporate Executive Chef Chef John Critchley of Rocksalt Restaurants, & Brine Restaurant

Be sure to stop on by BRINE Restaurant in the Mosaic District of Fairfax Virginia and let Chef John Critchley know that you’d like to sip on BRINE’s Gin & Juice! You can also try your hand at prepping it at home for your own personal enjoyment.

Gin & Juice, featuring James River Distillery’s Commonwealth Gin
2.5 oz. Commonwealth Gin
1/2 oz. kalamansi lime
1/2 oz. ginger juice
2 oz. blood orange juice (or blood orange concentrate with fresh squeezed orange juice)
½ oz. 1-1 hibiscus Syrup
5 drops of Grains of Paradise Tincture (infused gin with grains of paradise and lemon peel)
Add all ingredients into a soda siphon and carbonate for at least 20 minutes. Dispense over large ice cube and garnish with orange peel.

BRINE Restaurant (Fairfax, VA) 'Gin & Juice,' featuring James River Distillery’s Commonwealth Gin

BRINE Restaurant (Fairfax, VA) ‘Gin & Juice,’ featuring James River Distillery’s Commonwealth Gin

by: Amy Ciarametaro

At 14 in a town just south of Boston, Massachusetts, Chef John Critchley began his culinary career by ditching his paper route for cleaning pots and pans. Since then, he’s built a resume that reads like culinary poetry. John’s worked at several of Boston’s top restaurants, including Clio, Uni Sashimi Bar and Toro where he was the opening chef. John then went on to work as a harvester for Island Creek Oyster Co. in Duxbury, Massachuetts, where he indulged his passion for sustainable seafood.

Then in 2008, John joined Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants as the opening Chef of Miami’s Area 31. Critchley put his passion for the sea into action, and Area 31 was honored by Esquire Magazine as one of the Best New Restaurants of 2009. John then decided to head back north to work as Executive Chef for Michael Mina’s Washington, D.C., institution Bourbon Steak, and Creative Director for Barcelona Wine Bar.

After running into Travis Croxton (co-owner of Rappahannock River Oysters) at various events over the years, the two finally decided to collaborate. John is now the Corporate Executive Chef for the upcoming Rappahannock Restaurant Group – a centralized group overseeing Rocksalt Restaurants, and Brine Restaurant. John’s unofficial command center is Brine in Fairfax, and it’s where I found him for this feature.

BRINE Restaurant in the Mosaic District of Fairfax Virginia

BRINE Restaurant in the Mosaic District of Fairfax Virginia

Brine features sustainable seafood from the Mid-Atlantic foodshed, especially Rappahannock farm oysters from the Chesapeake Bay. Meats, poultry, cheeses and produce at Brine are all sourced from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, while the cuisine has cultural influences from around the globe. “We’re all about using the local growers and all local ingredients. Why wouldn’t you?” ask Critchley. “The product is better, fresher and competitive. I guess, for some, it’s easier to buy [ingredients] from a big box house that has a million options to choose from and can store it for you for years until you need it. But for us, we like to get to know our growers, and they appreciate our feedback to make items even better.

When it comes to what’s behind the bar, John and his team select the best spirits from the area along with over 120 bourbons for crafting their cocktails. “We carry quite a bit of #VaSpirits and are always looking for more. We’re obviously big fans of James River Distillery, which is why they’re featured in our September #VaSpirits cocktail, Gin & Juice,” says John.

You heard it here first: Chef Critchley wants to carry MORE #VaSpirits! His humble enthusiasm for all things local, both on the plate and in the glass, is just one of the reasons why we consider him a September #VaSpiritsMonth Tastemaker!


*Rapid Fire with Chef Critchley, Corporate Executive Chef, Rocksalt Restaurants, Brine Restaurant*

#VaSpirits: Where were you born?

Chef Critchley: Weymouth, Massachusetts

#VaSpirits: When you’re not behind the bar, what do you enjoy doing?

Chef Critchley: I enjoy taking my five-year old son to the local cookie shop for a cookie and ice coffee a few times a week before heading into work. Besides that, I love doing anything outdoors.

#VaSpirits: When you’re not drinking Virginia spirits, what do you enjoy drinking and why?

Chef Critchley: Some might say I’m a bourbon fan. 😉


For more information, check out:
Rocksalt Restaurants website / Facebook (Charlottesville & Charlotte) / Instagram (Charlottesville & Charlotte) / Twitter (Charlottesville)
Brine Restaurant website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

Photo credit: Jay Paul