Mike Isabella is a Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur, honored in 2016 by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington as Restaurateur of the Year. In 2011, Isabella opened Graffiato to critical acclaim. He now has nine restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with additional outposts in Nationals Park and Ronald Reagan National Airport. This year, Isabella will open three more full-service restaurants and a concept in Baltimore-Washington International Airport, along with a food emporium in Fairfax, Virginia. Isabella Eatery will be an unprecedented nine-concept dining experience spanning 41,000 square feet in Tysons Galleria, a luxury retail outlet in Northern Virginia.
In 2012, Isabella was named FOOD & WINE magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic. Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian is his first cookbook, also published in 2012.
Outside the kitchen, Isabella was a judge on “Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown” on FYI. Previously, he competed on Season Six of Top Chef, and Top Chef Duels, and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. He is also a member of the American Chef Corps, a network of chefs from across the United States who serve as culinary diplomats and resources to the Department of State.
Before opening Graffiato, Isabella was the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya. During his three-year tenure Isabella generated accolades and national attention for Washington, D.C.’s Mediterranean powerhouse restaurant.
Before settling in D.C., Isabella moved to Atlanta and found his culinary niche when he joined Buckhead Life Group’s top-notch Greek restaurant, Kyma. As chef de cuisine of the seafood-inspired menu, Isabella learned the flavors and techniques of Greek cooking.
Isabella’s formal training began at The Restaurant School in New York, taking classes and cooking his way through some of New York City’s finest establishments. Later, he travelled down the coast to Philadelphia, first as a sous chef for James Beard award winner Douglas Rodriguez at Alma de Cuba, then a host of other Stephen Starr restaurants. At El Vez, Isabella learned the true craft of Latin cuisine under the direction of Jose Garces, and as executive sous chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square, where Isabella educated himself on the art of opening a fine dining establishment.
George Pagonis is executive chef and partner at Kapnos, Kapnos Taverna and Kapnos Kouzina. At Kapnos, George helped put mainland Greek cuisine, including daily whole animal roasting, on the map in the nation’s capital when it opened in 2013. He competed on season 12 of the hit Bravo TV series Top Chef.
Before opening Kapnos, Chef George served as chef de cuisine at Mike Isabella’s Italian-inspired flagship, Graffiato, also in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining Graffiato, Chef George cooked at Aureole in New York under Christophe Bellanca and Marcus Ware. Before that, the fluent Greek-speaker worked at Jose Andres’ Zaytinya, where he first cooked under Mike Isabella. His first tour of duty in a fine dining kitchen was at New York’s Le Cirque. Chef George attended the University of Mary Washington, and though he followed that up with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, he first earned his kitchen stripes at The Four Seasons, an Alexandria, Va. Greek diner owned by his father.
Tim Galvin is the general manager of Kapnos and G, and a 16-year veteran of the hospitality industry. He has been part of the Mike Isabella Concepts team since 2013, most recently as the general manager at Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda, MD. Before joining MIC, Galvin worked as the front-of-house director for Vinoteca in Washington, D.C. He worked his way up from beverage director to general manager during his three-year tenure at Ardeo/Bardeo, and earlier served as restaurant manager of The Fourth Estate At The National Press Club.
Prior to moving to the nation’s capital, Galvin was the general manager of ONE in Irvington, NY, which was given an “Excellent” rating by The New York Times. He worked as the wine and beverage director of Dressing Room in Westport, CT, where he developed a wine program that was recognized by Wine Spectator with an “Award of Excellence.” He was also the beverage director and restaurant manager of RK…An American Brasserie in Rye, NY.
Over the course of his career, Galvin has gained experience in almost every area of restaurant operations including sommelier, bartender, chef de partie, maitre’ d, and chef de rang. He is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and earned his bachelor degree in culinary arts management from The Culinary Institute of America.
Hung Nguyen is the bar manager of Kapnos, Mike Isabella’s regional Greek restaurant in Washington, D.C. In this role, Nguyen works closely with beverage director Taha Ismail to create a Mediterranean-inspired cocktail list matching a menu of mainland and coastal Greek fare from executive chef George Pagonis.
A 20-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Nguyen most recently worked in New York at several high-profile bars, including classic cocktail bar The Daily under prominent bartender Nacho Jimenez, the Michelin-starred Public where he served as bar manager, and Dante, a European-inspired aperitivo bar recognized among The World’s 50 Best Bars.
Nguyen first met and worked alongside Isabella, Ismail and Pagonis at José Andrés’ Zaytinya.