Bio: Executive Chef, John Critchley, brings more than 17 years of experience to Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar. Critchley joins the restaurant from Miami's Area 31, where he created a menu honoring the restaurant's name, an ecologically sound fishing region encompassing the Western Atlantic Ocean. Critchley put his passion for the sea to work with an eclectic menu offering pristine seafood sourced predominantly from Area 31. He brings this same passion to Urbana, where he will combine Western Mediterranean influences emphasizing sustainable seafood with creative but simple techniques.
Critchley graduated in May 1997 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He was born and raised in Scituate, Massachusetts, a small suburban fishing town on the south shore of Boston. It was there where Critchley grew fascinated by the sea and would enjoy water sports and surfing. He began working in the kitchen of the Red Lion Inn as a dishwasher at the age of 14 and by the time he graduated high school, Critchley was already serving as a line chef.
In 1998 Critchley honed his skills as a sauté and grill chef at Ford's Colony Dining Room, a AAA Five Diamond and DiRoNA recipient in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1999, Critchley moved over to Trellis Restaurant, owned by award-winning cookbook author Marcel Desaulniers of "Death by Chocolate." Critchley executed bread and pastry production for the restaurant.
Critchley has worked closely with some of the nation's top restaurateurs and chefs. Most notably, he was responsible for several high-profile restaurants alongside Chef Ken Oringer. In 2003, Critchley was hired as Line Chef under Oringer in Boston's Clio Restaurant and within a year was promoted to Sous Chef. Critchley was also Sous Chef at the Oringer-operated Uni Sashimi Bar. "It was a no boundaries way of cooking. Cooking is such a broad area and Ken has one of the best palates I've ever come across. He has always been influenced by all sorts of things from India to South America to Japan," says Critchley. Both restaurants received numerous accolades such as the prestigious "Best of Boston" award. Critchley and Oringer traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia during their time together, joining prominent chefs such as Francois Payard, Michael Ginor, Tetsuya Wakuda, Sergi Arola and Todd English at the Gourmet Food Festival in Bangkok, Thailand.
In 2005, Critchley and Oringer opened Toro, a Boston tapas bar. He ran the 55-seat restaurant for over two years and was responsible for the elaborate Spanish-style menu. Critchley soon found himself with an array of various awards and recognitions including a near-perfect score from ZAGAT. Several esteemed chefs, such as Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, Jacques Pepin and Jean-Claude visited Toro to experience Critchley's famed morcilla recipe.
In 2007, Critchley decided to follow his heart back to the ocean. "I rolled up my sleeves and worked hand-in-hand with the owners at the Island Creek Oysters Company on the coast of Massachusetts and helped harvest and grow oysters with some of the most passionate growers I have ever met," Critchley says. Critchley joined the Kimpton Restaurant group in May of 2008 and continued his culinary training in San Francisco before taking his post at Area 31 in October 2008. In December 2010, he relocated to Washington, DC and joined Kimpton's Urbana as Executive Chef. He lives in Alexandria, Va. with his wife and dog, Zoey.