Photo of Cameron Smith by Laura Hayes
Photo of Cameron Smith by Laura Hayes

As the restaurant industry evolves, so too does its staff. D.C. eateries are adding people with titles like tea specialist and tobacconist to the payroll. Why? To separate themselves from the competition and to provide a more memorable experience for diners. Learn who they are and what they actually do.

Illustrations by Jandos Rothstein

Chief of Produce

Bennett Haynes, Beefsteak

José Andrés’ fast casual concept that showcases vegetables hired Haynes to focus on sustainable sourcing and seasonality. The Fulbright scholar who has dedicated his career to agriculture comes to the job with a network of top-tier producers having run Ralston Farm LLC, which supplied produce to Michelin-starred restaurants. 

Certified Tobacconist

Mason Foster, Bourbon Steak

Think of Foster, a graduate of the Tobacconist University of Princeton, New Jersey, as the steakhouse’s cigar sommelier. Diners can find the cigar list within the cocktail menu and should feel free to call on Foster to make recommendations before stepping out to the courtyard to puff away.

Cheese Whiz

Cameron Smith, The Inn at Little Washington

As the full-time cheese expert at Northern Virginia’s fine dining oasis, Smith rolls a cow-shaped cheese cart named Faira through the luxuriously appointed dining room while sputtering a cheese pun a minute. Diners can hear him coming because the cart moos. 

Tea Specialist 

Christian Eck, Park Hyatt Washington

Eck is the man managing the tea program inside the Park Hyatt Washington, which is both extensive and expensive. The hotel’s tea cellar has more than 50 rare teas from all over the world, and pots are available from $8 to $300. Eck is well versed on how each tea should be prepared. 

Whiskey Advisor

Chris Leung, Jack Rose Dining Saloon

As one of Jack Rose’s salaried whiskey advisors, Leung works the floor helping imbibers find something brown to sip from the bar’s extensive bottle list—2,700 selections and counting. He also hosts whiskey tastings tailored to guests’ preferences; trains staff members; helps choose new whiskey releases that the bar should carry; and handles inventory.