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Bringing the Best People to the Table

Transplanted staff opens Wildfire in Tysons Galleria.

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Staff was brought in from an established Wildfire to bring an authenticity to the new Galleria restaurant’s atmosphere. Clockwise from left: Betsy Kemp, Steven Lukis, Michelle Pringham, Kamran Siraj, Dan Weslowski and Maria Mozian.

Only five weeks after opening, Wildfire, the latest restaurant addition to the Tysons Galleria, already had repeat customers. The 1940’s-style steakhouse– with a kids’ menu and without white tablecloths – aims to be a family establishment somewhere in between Morton’s and Outback Steakhouse. Like those restaurants, Wildfire is part of a chain; the company is based in Chicago, and the Galleria location is the first in the Washington area. The top echelon of staff was transplanted from Chicago to get the new branch started right: Dan Weslowski, Kamran Siraj, Michelle Pringham, Maria Mozian, Betsy Kemp and executive chef Steven Lukis. Bringing in people who are familiar with the Wildfire concept instills a level of authenticity; it’s the reason the Galleria’s Wildfire feels like a Wildfire, the group explains.

While they were used to the day-to-day experiences of running an established restaurant, the team was faced with the challenge of opening the Tysons restaurant. Kemp said there was an adrenaline that came from having a new job every job day. “Every day was learning,” she said. Siraj had worked with a different group opening another Wildfire, but said that every opening is unique.

The staff has found homes across Northern Virginia, some closer in McLean and Falls Church, some commuting from Alexandria, and after only a few weeks they have all found a common problem: the traffic. However, they know there’s an upside to having all the people in the area – more customers. A business hub, home to many large-scale employers, Tysons was a good choice of location to catch the after-work crowd. Wildfire wants to be “where people come to enjoy themselves,” Siraj said.

When those diners find both quality of food and quality of service, the team said, their personal word-of-mouth recommendations are the biggest factor in growing the restaurant’s business, they said. “Every night we go on a wait, it’s a fantastic challenge,” said Mozian.

Wildfire is located on the third floor of the Galleria, between Macy’s and Sak’s Fifth Avenue, at 1714U International Drive, McLean. Call 703-442-9110 or visit www.wildfirerestaurant.com.