The Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center Restaurant


Joe Gurner

Executive Chef, Restaurant Associates at the Kennedy Center

a plate of crabcakes

Growing up just outside of Pittsburgh, PA, Joe Gurner always had a passion for food. As a young man, he would rush home from school so he could prepare meals for his family and friends. Trying to be practical, Joe attended college and obtained a business degree, but longed to work in the kitchen. Drawn by his calling to be a chef, he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, where he got his first taste of what it takes to become a chef and enjoyed every minute of it.

As part of his culinary schooling, Joe completed an externship at the Marco Island, Florida Marriott Spa and Resort. Following his graduation, he returned to the Marco Island Marriott and took a full-time position as a chef for the resort's five restaurants. After several years in Florida, Joe decided it was time for a change and moved to the west coast to San Francisco where he served as the catering chef for the famed War Memorial Opera House. Here he prepared menus for events ranging from small weddings to huge corporate galas He also catered events at some of Napa Valley's finest vineyards.

Eventually, Joe decided it was time to return to his roots back east and move closer to his family. Due to his stellar background in handling high-profile events, Restaurant Associates looked to Joe to oversee the kitchen of the National Museum of American History, and later serve as opening chef for renowned properties, including the National Museum of the American Indian, The Music Center at Strathmore, and the Museum of Science in Boston.

In recognition of his excellent work, Joe was brought on as catering chef at the Kennedy Center in 2007, where he proved to be a natural leader in the kitchen and was quickly promoted to top toque. Now, Joe oversees all food operations, from the elegant Roof Terrace Restaurant and casual KC Café to prestigious black tie galas, such as Kennedy Center Honors. As executive chef, his mission is to focus on maintaining high-quality cuisine and showcasing fresh, simply prepared seasonal foods for all the Kennedy Center's dining destinations.

When Joe isn't working long hours in the kitchen, he enjoys watching the Steelers play football or you might catch him at one of the many sporting events around DC.