Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
- 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC, 20007, USA
Four Seasons Tenure
- First hired 2008; now since 2021
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Cook 3, Four Seasons Hotel Amman
- The Hay-Adams, Washington, DC; Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC; Four Seasons Hotel Houston; Four Seasons Hotel Amman; Le Royal Hotel, Amman, Jordan
- Amman, Jordan
- Arabic, English
“The great thing here is that we’re all in this together and helping each other out,” says Bilal Wshah, reflecting on the solid team effort and generous exchange of talent he oversees as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC. The youngest Executive Chef in Four Seasons when promoted to his role in 2022, Wshah still brings two decades of culinary and management experience to food-and-beverage operations, and he relies on all of it to dazzle palates from the Nation’s Capital and beyond.
The responsibilities of Wshah’s position are myriad, including lending support, as needed, to the Hotel’s signature Michael Mina-produced dining experience Bourbon Steak, while also leading the renowned power breakfast spot Seasons Restaurant, where menus are transformed every three months and Sunday brunch and Saturday tea are reliably packed. He also creates the in-room dining menu, banqueting for 23,000 square-feet of event space, healthy bites for Spa & Wellness, and more.
The diversity of his team is a key ingredient for the success of all of the above. “We have so many different cultures in the kitchen, which is really fitting for such an international city,” he says, noting employees from across Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. Though he leads the operation, Wshah always endeavours to involve the team in decisions and relies on their creativity as well as his own. “I’m not shy about it: When we’re working on new offerings, I’ll just say, ‘Hey, does anyone want to give me some good ideas?’ They always do.”
Whatever the source of new concepts, Wshah secures the pick of ingredients to make them realities on the plate, having forged strong relationships with suppliers over the course of his career. They are sure of his desire for seasonality, he says, and they reach out to let him know about new items or when particular produce is at its peak. “Those put us in a great position to innovate and stay a step ahead.”
Indeed, sourcing ingredients is one of Wshah’s passions, though timing can sometimes be challenging. A Spanish theme for a Sunday brunch at Seasons, for instance, may require ordering a couple weeks in advance to ensure imported products arrive on time. But rewards for the kitchen and guests are worth it. “It’s difficult and fun at the same time.”
Originally from Amman, Jordan, Wshah always had a talent for working with his hands and was drawn to the kitchen, despite his parents’ wishes, with encouragement from cousins and uncles in the restaurant business. One of the latter got him a starter job working for an Italian restaurant at a hotel when he was just 15, with pay so low it didn’t even cover his transportation. “My uncle wanted to show me what it a kitchen was like, and it worked. I really liked it: Being on my feet all day and creating things for people to enjoy felt good from the start.”
What did his parents think? “They weren’t thrilled at first, but they’re proud of me now.”
Three years after getting his start and learning on the job, Wshah joined Four Seasons as a cook in 2008, and then transferred to Houston for a year before landing on the team in Washington at the opening of Bourbon Steak in 2010. His still-growing talent was in demand at every outlet, with opportunities including teaming with a fellow cook to fashion Middle Eastern comfort specialities for Sunday brunches at Seasons.
He later left the Hotel for a few years to gain experience in banqueting at another prominent DC luxury address, but returned as Executive Sous Chef in 2021.
Wshah is realistic about the demands of his new position, calling it “a tough job, honestly, with a lot of responsibilities.” But he is also excited to be a part of the local dining scene, which has grown and gotten more diverse during his years with Four Seasons. “There are always new things to discover now,” he says of his fondness for patronizing new restaurants. “There is so much creativity here in the city these days, and that makes our jobs challenging. But it also sharpens our focus on staying on top.”