Chatting with Chefs: Gerald Addison

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Each month, Evan Caplan speaks with a chef of a local eatery. In February, he chatted with Gerald Addison of Maydan. Addison is a homegrown D.C. native who started his culinary career at Restaurant Nora. He’s passionate about working with local farmers and producers in his new role as executive chef at Compass Rose, where he’s excited to take on the challenge of global flavors.

Addison loves green tea everything, his two cats and cooking with wise old women in the mountains of Nepal. At Maydan, a new, conceptual Middle Eastern restaurant in the 14th Street corridor, from his perch near the stunning open-fire clay oven, he muses with coworkers on his travels to devise the restaurant’s menu. Addison seeks to tell the stories of people from around the region through his food, welcoming guests as family to break bread baked in that very oven.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Gerald Addison: I was born in Washington, D.C. I grew up in Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park. I started working in restaurants in D.C when I was 15 at Restaurant Nora.

Dig deeper into that background. What’s influenced you?

GA: I have been heavily influenced by all the different people around me. D.C. being such an international city has been a huge part of why I was interested in cooking. More than anything else, cooking has been a gateway for me to learn about other people’s cultures. I never felt like I had my own food culture, so I sort of adopted the other food cultures around me. Every city I have lived in, I’ve always been much more interested in trying food from different communities around me.

How has growing up in D.C. affected you? Tell us about your family’s work in art and in Georgetown.

GA: My parents opened their gallery around 35 years ago on Hillyer Court in Dupont. It was tucked away in an alley. I always really loved that space, because it was a little hidden and you had to find it. Funnily enough, Maydan is now in an alley, so I really love that. They moved the gallery to Georgetown in the early 2000s and have been there ever since. They do a lot of different shows, from local artists to 18th-century Tibetan art. Growing up around artists and creative types has had a big impact on me. Seeing people making a living doing what they love is incredibly inspiring.

What does it mean to you to cook and serve in Washington, D.C.?

GA: Cooking in D.C. now after growing up here and starting my career means so much to me. As a kid, I never had any intention of living here as an adult. But when I moved back it really just felt right. I love being close to my family, and I sort of love being a local in the sea of transplants — remembering the old D.C. when so much has changed here. I am very proud of being from here, because it’s such a rarity these days.

What’s the best part about your job?

GA: I light a huge fire every day.

What’s the coolest thing you saw on your travels?

GA: Cooking with Syrian refugees was pretty amazing. Istanbul has a million Syrians living there and, as tragic as everything is with the conflict, seeing these people trying to rebuild their lives there is incredible. Not to mention the Syrians are exceptional cooks.

Any celebs you’ve served?

GA: Most recently, Michelle Obama.

What’s the most important thing we should know when we sit down at Maydan?

GA: We cook food from Morocco to Iran. Everything is cooked over a wood-fired hearth in the middle of the restaurant. Everything is meant to be eaten with bread that we cook out of the oven. Overall, it’s going amazing. We’ve had so much support from so many people. Opening restaurants is extremely difficult, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. We have the most incredible team here. Every day I am so grateful to have the people I have around me.

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