An Inside Look at the Chef Geoff Gulag

With several restaurants in the D.C. area, Chef Geoff Tracy is a recognizable name. Almost as recognizable as his wife, CBS White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell. Washingtonian magazine’s Todd Kliman did a lengthy profile on Tracy to detail the unimaginable hoops he makes his staff jump through to maintain their status as the best not-quite-fine-dining-but-passable-food restaurant.

The empire is run with a series of 800 standards to keep their quality at a consistent level. 800?!?! Is this a restaurant or a prison? Just what ARE some of these standards? Kliman was given all access to the daily operations and, while some of these standards make sense, some are a little kooky. For example, if a candle at a table goes out, it MUST be re-lit within two minutes. Anyone want to travel to the different restaurants and test that standard with me over and over and over again?

Kliman also focuses on the constant struggle to maintain life in the restaurant business and a family. (Tracy and O’Donnell have three children.) Tracy and O’Donnell have a “storybook” life. Beautiful children, wealth, a giant home. Some of the documenting of their love story is so syrupy sweet, it makes me retch. One story says, “The couple has been spotted working out at the gym together, holding hands between sit-ups.” We are told that, “Many nights, Tracy can be found not in one of his kitchens but by O’Donnell’s side at a prestigious gala or dinner party. One of Washington’s A-list couples, the duo is in high demand from September to May.” They are, by the way, a restaurant owner and a TV reporter. Not politicians or royalty. What Kliman DOESN’T mention is that things can’t be THAT rosy in the household. As image management goes, this piece gets an A+ and Kliman probably gets free calamari for life. But with O’Donnell is set to leave for NYC to start work on CBS’s morning show, and Geoff on the verge of opening another restaurant in Rockville next month and five more by 2020, it comes off as a little too good to be 100 percent true. Among the grossest sentences: “‘Empire’ sounds like a grandiose word for a guy as unassuming as Tracy, but he says volume has always been a core component of his vision.”

The entire piece is filled with fascinating, weird details of how Tracy has built his local empire and it’s worth a read. If nothing else, it will make you feel inadequate. If this thing is all true, Chef Geoff is better looking, more organized, has a hotter spouse, and has a better overall quality of life than anyone on the planet.

And as the piece says, he’s STILL pinching himself.

Right, and so are we. Blech!

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