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. Isabella now has more than a dozen restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with additional outposts in Nationals Park and Ronald Reagan National Airport. His newest and largest project is a food emporium in Fairfax, Virginia. Isabella Eatery is 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 was 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 José Andrés’ 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 traveled 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.
Joe Palma is the culinary director of Isabella Eatery, Mike Isabella’s 41,000-square-foot food emporium at Tysons Galleria. In this role, he works closely with Isabella to develop menus, hire and manage all back-of-house staff and create a unique system for this unprecedented operation, which houses 10 distinct concepts and a commissary kitchen servicing diverse needs from fast-casual and upscale dining, to carryout and offsite catering.
Prior to joining Mike Isabella Concepts, Palma served as executive chef of Michael Mina’s esteemed Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, where he helmed the kitchen since May 2014. He previously held a two-year tenure as executive chef at High Cotton, a well-regarded Charleston, S.C. restaurant specializing in lowcountry cuisine. Palma honed a deep knowledge of luxury dining and large-scale hotel restaurants working alongside acclaimed chef Eric Ripert as executive chef of Westend Bistro at the Ritz-Carlton Washington, D.C., as well as a sous chef position at Ripert’s three Michelin-starred Le Bernardin in New York City, widely considered the country’s top fine-dining seafood restaurant. Palma further strengthened his French technique early in his career under notable D.C. chefs Yannick Cam at Le Paradou and Michel Richard at Citronelle.