Rose Previte, who graduated with a Master of Public Policy degree in 2007, last week was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Her award-winning Compass Rose and Maydan restaurants will be joined this year by Kirby Club in Clarendon, offering Middle Eastern fare not far from Mason Square. Here we reprint a profile of Previte from 2017 detailing how her Schar School degree helped establish her restaurant career and how her travels with her husband, NPR’s David Greene, influenced her menus.
Rose Previte arrived in Washington, D.C., ready to change the world through politics, or open a restaurant, whichever came first.
"I didn’t see a way to make it [in restaurants] at the time,” she said. But her other option—“changing the world and fixing it”—required additional education, which led her to the Schar School of Policy and Government’s Master of Public Policy Program. She completed the degree as a full-time student in two years, finishing in 2007.
Flash forward: Previte’s award-winning Washington restaurant, Compass Rose, is on national “best restaurant” lists, noted as much for its sold-out, no-reservation tables as for its global “street food” theme. She collected the recipes on travels to more than 30 countries with her husband David Greene, a correspondent for National Public Radio.
This spring Previte was selected to host the Washington, D.C., area’s installment of the public television show “Check, Please!” which debuted Oct. 18 and airs each Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Washington’s WETA-TV. Previte guides a frank discussion about dining in D.C. with a panel of three guests who each ate at restaurants recommended by the other panelists.
“I’ve been sitting around a table and talking about food my entire life,” she said of her qualifications for the new venture. Her Lebanese mother ran a catering company in Ohio; her Sicilian father sold Italian sausage sandwiches at street fairs and festivals and was involved in local politics, which is where she gained her affinity for campaigning and advocacy.
While at George Mason's Schar School, she traveled to New Orleans to work on an independent study on how the city could recover after Hurricane Katrina. She also interned for Washington, D.C., City Council member Jack Evans, who was leading the effort to fund a new Major League Baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals.
“All these projects made me want to go on and work in local government after graduate school,” she said. “City and local policy issues have always been my favorite. It’s exciting to see the results of your work in your community not long after doing the work.”
After completing her Mason degree, Previte earned a fellowship that allowed her to work for the Arlington County manager for a year. From there she relocated to New York City and worked for the speaker of the city council before moving to Russia with her husband, who became NPR’s Moscow correspondent.
Her Mason experience continues to come in handy in the restaurant business.
“I say if you open a restaurant in D.C., you probably should have a master’s in public policy, because in D.C. you do your own permitting and liquor licensing,” she said. “It was some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever done in my life, but the degree really helps. I was able to do it because of my public policy degree.”