Marcel’s, the haute French flagship owned and operated by chef Robert Wiedmaier, had a big year in 2014.
Having celebrated the restaurant’s 15th anniversary in March, Wiedmaier completed a major dining room refurbishment last month. Since its opening in 1999 at 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Marcel’s has been redesigned in a succession of renovations.
This year, revamping the dining room has been the primary focus. Its completion brings a fresh facelift to one of the District’s favorite dining destinations.
“It has a European look with a lot of American sensibilities,” said Wiedmaier about the space. “It’s very comfortable and spartan at the same time.” He added that the look is a flirtation of classic and modern elements, without being too modern.
From contemporary chandeliers and angular sconces to fresh china, providing “a bigger canvas to play on and paint on,” these modern appointments have beautifully updated the ambiance at Marcel’s. In addition, chef Wiedmaier hired Doyle Mueser of New York to create tailor-made, bespoke suits for the entire front-of-house staff. From top to bottom, this revamped look augments the first-class dining experience at Marcel’s and signals the beginning of a reinvigorated presentation.
In an age when casual dining and dressing down are pervasive, an evening at Marcel’s is a welcome change. “We’ve always pushed the pedal on fine dining and we’re going to continue to push the pedal harder,” said Wiedmaier, who attributes his success to a steadfast focus on fine dining, even while it was diminishing in popularity.
“The look is very elegant, but my staff exudes friendliness and unpretentiousness,” he said. “It’s a great combination.”
At Marcel’s, the objective is to make patrons feel special from the moment they walk through the door. Fostering this welcoming feeling are Marcel’s hard-working team and staff, which Wiedmaier created and has sustained over the years. In fact, from the dishwashers to the waiters, almost his entire crew has been with him since the restaurant’s conception – in today’s marketplace a virtually unheard-of distinction.
At the heart of this welcoming service and elegant experience are the gastronomic talents of chef Wiedmaier himself.
Born in Wiesbaden, Germany, to an American mother and a Belgian father, Wiedmaier went to culinary school in the Netherlands, then worked in Belgium before coming to Washington.
Along with his Belgian grandmother, Wiedmaier credits his mother for instilling the culinary calling. “My mom was always a great cook, always in the kitchen, always in the markets. And I was always tagging along with her,” he said.
Growing up, he worked at the surrounding farms, learning how to hunt, fish and live off the land. Hunting and fishing would become a lifelong interest, particularly as they pertained to cooking. Wiedmaier practices whole-animal butchery, conserving the entire animal, using each piece with no waste.
This regard for nature and sense of responsibility about using food respectfully make Wiedmaier a standout chef in D.C., where he has worked for 30 years.
“I knew what I wanted to do from a very young age,” he said. “I stuck with what I loved and never looked back.”