Master's of Cuisine, Wining & Dining

Chef Joseph Lennon

Chef Joseph Lennon © Chester Simpson
Chef Joseph Lennon © Chester Simpson

By: Chester Simpson

Mason Social
728 North Henry St.
Old Town Alexandria

Chef Lennon moved to Virginia in 2008, and has worked at, in chronological order: Vermilion, Columbia Firehouse, The Grille at Morrison House, Urbana and Bourbon Steak and now Mason.

When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
I started cooking after a car accident during my freshman year of college left me without transportation to get to my job at a farm in southeast PA. I was on the grill station when the bus pulled up, about three months into my tenure.  It was busy, it was scary, it was fast, and then four hours later, it was over.  I was hooked.  I started reading cookbooks in history class, cooking in my free time and spent all summer in a tiny kitchen working on my knife and saute skills.

Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career?
Chef Dan Profita was one of the first chefs I worked for that really taught me the value of a work ethic, cleanliness, and mise en place.  He was a great inspiration to me very early in my career.  Since moving to the DC metro area, John Critchley has been a guiding light as I transitioned from line cook to running a kitchen.  He taught me how to manage numbers and how to manage people individually.  Dennis Marron and Tony Chittum also inspired me to help my kitchen staff excel to the height of their capabilities because it truly elevates the guest experience when every member of the kitchen and service staff are well-trained and knowledgeable.

What dish on the menu are you most curious to see how it is received?
I want to get more raw seafood preparations, raw beef, and some house-made charcuterie on the menu.  I’m confident that diners in the Parker-Gray neighborhood will enjoy those items, but I’m curious to see how popular they will be compared to our bar menu.

What do you do to ensure the quality of the food going out to customers meets a high standard?
We use tasting spoons in the kitchen to taste all of the food we serve.  I am able to taste about half of all the food that goes out of the kitchen, and we demo new dishes to the service staff on a regular basis to get their feedback and a different perspective.

If any chef in the world could prepare you a meal, who would it, be?
I would love to eat at one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants.  I think I have a trip to Chicago planned for the summer to eat at Alinea, and that should be great.  DC has such an awesome dining scene that I would be comfortable eating at a few dozen spots in the city, but time off is a bit of a factor right now.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

Roast Celery Root Hummus, Lamb Shank, Mac & Cheese, and Marrow Burger. © Chester Simpson
Roast Celery Root Hummus, Lamb Shank, Mac & Cheese, and Marrow Burger. © Chester Simpson

Written by: Chester Simpson
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