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People 2 minutes 15 November 2018

Chef Spotlight: Tail Up Goat's Jon Sybert

Sybert leads the kitchen of the one-Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat in Washington, D.C.

Chefs Club

As a young cook, the MICHELIN Guide was something Jon Sybert was extremely aware of. “I had a lot of international friends in the cooking world and it was this thing that was spoken about in such reverent, hushed tones, that it was just always clear to me how special it was,” he says.

The Northern Virginia native worked in and out of Washington, D.C. kitchens, gaining street cred at Komi before eventually opening Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan, which he owns with his wife and service director, Jill Tyler, and beverage director Bill Jensen.

The concept for the restaurant is quite simple: they wanted to create something with not just a focus on food, but that also offered an eclectic drink list and warm hospitality. Basically, a restaurant the trio would frequent on their days off. “The kind of food we like to eat and how we like to eat—hence the emphasis on sharing,” he says. “Our hope is someone walks in and joins us and enjoys all these parts of what we do.”

Jon Sybert (far right) with co-owners Bill Jensen and Jill Tyler.
Jon Sybert (far right) with co-owners Bill Jensen and Jill Tyler.

Sybert’s style of cooking is ingredient-based with a heavy Mediterranean influence. “I try to source the best, local foods and go from there,” he says. “We work closely with farmers in our region to get the best fresh and local foods, which means that some dishes are only on the menu for one evening, depending on how long an ingredient will be around. “Homemade breads, pastas, charcuterie, whole animal butchery and preservation are the backbone of my kitchen,” he says. “I will often start with a shape of pasta or type of bread and work my way up from there, adding in whatever seasonal products are in house at the moment.” Items commonly stocked in the Tail Up Goat pantry include olives, capers and anchovies.

Never having worked in Europe or New York City, Sybert and team weren’t expecting to even be considered by inspectors. “When I learned that Michelin would be extending its reach to D.C., I was both very excited and somewhat blissfully ignorant,” he admits, recalling being in the middle of their first year in business, spending nearly every day in the weeds. “I wasn’t really even aware that the time for the big announcement was creeping up—even if I had been more with it, I don’t think that I would’ve even considered the fact that we could be in the running.”

"Don’t be fooled by the casual vibe though, as this kitchen is notably serious," state inspectors of one-Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat.
"Don’t be fooled by the casual vibe though, as this kitchen is notably serious," state inspectors of one-Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat.

Tail Up Goat earned a star in the first MICHELIN Guide Washington, D.C. and has retained it since. “I was beyond blown away and felt a pride that really emanated from those conversations with some of the chefs I worked for early [on] in my career that had been part of some of the great Michelin restaurants back in their home countries—mainly Italy—that instilled in me early on just how difficult it was to be recognized in the guide, much less receive a star.”

On November 18 through 20, Sybert will be hosting a three-night pop-up at Chefs Club in New York City—and he is beyond stoked. “It’s one of my favorite cities in the U.S. and it’s always been a dream of mine to cook for the people of New York,” he says. “Simple, seasonal food, the warm and sincere hospitality of my partner and our service director, Jill, and the thoughtful, enthusiastic voice that my other partner, Bill, brings to our beverages. The best thing we can do during our short stint in the city is to be as true to ourselves and what we are as we can be.”

The menu is a culmination of Sybert’s favorite Tail Up Goat dishes of the past, such as yellowfin tuna crudo with aqua pazza, crispy caper berries, candied olive and wood sorrel; sweet sourdough with whipped lardo and pickled clams; and lamb ribs with hazelnut dukkah, sumac-yogurt onions, pickled seeds and salt-roasted beets. “We’re intensely seasonal, so I’ve had to wait until just a week or so before we head up to New York to fill in some of the gaps,” he says. “I think I’ve finally got the menu pretty nailed down.”

Get your tickets for Sybert’s MICHELIN Guide at Chefs Club pop-up here.

Images courtesy of Tail Up Goat.

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