Restaurants / Openings

Aaron Bludorn’s Much-Awaited New Seafood Restaurant in Rice Village Reels In Its Chef — Navy Blue Finds a Rising Star

Jerrod Zifchak Brings Serious Seafood Bonafides

BY // 09.27.22
photography Michael Anthony

Six degrees of separation, the idea that two people are six or fewer connections (social or occupational) away from one another couldn’t be any truer than in the restaurant industry where often your last and possibly your next position comes via word of mouth. Take chef Aaron Bludorn, owner of his eponymous Houston restaurant named Bludorn on the edge of downtown at 807 Taft Street.

Now, Aaron Bludorn is poised to open a much-anticipated seafood restaurant called Navy Blue in Rice Village. Like most chefs, before he hung his own shingle, Bludorn steadily worked his way up in kitchens from the Napa Valley to New York City. When he reached executive chef status at renowned chef Daniel Boulud’s Cafe Boulud in New York City, he took on the role of mentor too.

As fate would have it, one of those budding chefs Jerrod Zifchak, who worked under Aaron Bludorn’s leadership back in the Cafe Boulud days, is collaborating with him again. This time, Bludorn is entrusting Zifchak to helm his new Navy Blue restaurant as its executive chef.

Zifchak was born in Chicago and schooled at the Culinary Institute of America, where his father was also an instructor. Upon graduation, he worked with the famed chef Eric Ripert, co-owner of New York City’s famed Le Bernadin, who possesses a stellar reputation for his impeccable flair with fish and seafood. (Surely, the knowledge gleaned there will come in handy in his new role.)

Cherif Mbjodi, Victoria Bludorn and Aaron Bludorn, Photo by Michael Anthony (1) (Photo by Michael Anthony)
General manager Cherif Mbjodi, with Victoria Bludorn and her husband chef Aaron Bludorn are excited about the upcoming opening of new Houston restaurant called Navy Blue. (Photo by Michael Anthony)

Zifchak has much in common with Bludorn’s career trajectory too. After Aaron Bludorn left his position to open his Bludorn restaurant in Houston with wife Victoria Pappas, Zifchak slipped into the role he vacated at Cafe Boulud and remained there until the COVID pandemic took its toll and shuttered the once bustling bistro.

Despite the distance, the two friends stayed in touch as they weathered the proverbial storm which devasted their industry and looked ahead, talking about the future and the idea to one day collaborate on Aaron Bludorn’s then still-in-the-works second restaurant.

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“I am beyond thrilled to join Aaron in Houston and embark on my next exciting chapter as a chef,” Zifchak says in a statement. “Navy Blue is a concept where I can utilize my skills, precision and genuine love for seafood and once again work alongside Aaron on an exciting menu that builds upon the wildly successful track record that Aaron and (general manager) Cherif (Mbjodi) have worked so hard to achieve.”

When Navy Blue throws open its doors in November, the 7,100-square-foot space (which previously was briefly home to the food hall called Politan Row) will showcase a style of cooking inspired by the ocean and “everything in it” with presentations and preparations that are playful and fun. Expect a global wine list that concentrates on old world white wine varietals, an eclectic cocktail program and a polished level of service overseen by general manager and partner Cherif Mbjodi, who many know from his post at Bludorn.

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