Yesterday, a long row of motorcycles sat in the hot morning sun on the sidewalk framing the doors of Brasserie Beck on K Street. The Washingtonians hurrying past in skirts and suits spared little more than a glance for the tough-looking bunch in black T-shirts and leather vests who smoked cigars and shot the breeze while two photographers circled, snapping their pictures.
This motley crew was a gathering of some of D.C.’s best chefs, all of them there for the “Chefs Go Fresh” event presented by Georgetown Media Group, publishers of The Georgetowner and The Downtowner, and Loudoun County, Virginia Department of Economic Development. The event was a resurrection of the popular “Chefs on Bikes” event which was last held four years ago, and was brought back with the intention of bringing D.C. chefs closer to local farmers and produce.
The day kicked off with a breakfast at Brasserie Beck hosted by Chef Robert Wiedmaier, co-founder of the original “Chefs on Bikes” event. Before the chefs took off on their ride touring Virginia farms such as Endless Summer Harvest, Notaviva Vineyard and Stoneybrook Farm, The Georgetowner took the chance to ask these restaurant personalities a few questions.
We asked the chefs what is their favorite fresh ingredient to work with, and got a varied list of produce that is in season now and ingredients that are staples year-round. Chef Peter Russo of Chef Geoff said that his favorite ingredient is foie while Chef Clifford Wharton of Matchbox went with ginger and Weidmaier said he prefers white asparagus from Belgium. Tomatoes and potatoes were also given mention while two votes were put in for garlic.
“[There are] way too many things have to have garlic in them not to give it first billing,” said Chef Thomas Elder of Harth Restaurant.
When asked whose kitchen they were in when they weren’t in the kitchens of their respective restaurants, the chefs responded with an almost unanimous answer of their kitchens at home. Chef Vinod of Indique Restaurant said that he could be found in “my mom’s kitchen.” Elder and Chef RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 both said that Weidmaier’s kitchen was a favorite of theirs, while Weidmaier himself said that you’re most likely to find him “at home with my family in my kitchen.”
Finally, we asked each chef who their personal “Top Chef” is. Wiedmair gave a list of four: Chef Paul Stearman of Marcel’s; Chris Watson, the chef de cuisine at Brabo; Matt Hagen, the chef de cuisine at Weidmair’s Mussel Bar, and John Engle, the chef de cuisine at Weidmair’s Brasserie Beck. Vinod named Chef Mike Isabella of Graffiato, Chef Roberto Donna of Galileo III replied with Pellegrino Artusi, author of the famous Italian cookbook “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene,” and Cooper said that his “Top Chef” is the famous Ferran Adria. Weidmair, whose kitchen’s hot Belgian waffles and fresh scrambled eggs the chefs ate while answering these questions, was nominated at “Top Chef” several times, and Russo answered diplomatically, saying “my wife.”