saval_ad_590x60

‘Minting’ Culinary Talent … An Interview with Cedric Maupillier by Jay Treadwell

Around the bend at Columbia Road and 18th Street in Adams Morgan is a restaurant that appears rustic and somewhat what you might expect seeing in a saloon, but make no mistake – coming out of this unassuming place, you will be surprised and pleased by the culinary excellence you find at Mintwood Place.

I had a chance to sit down with the executive chef, Cedric Maupillier, and conducted an interview with him to learn about out what makes him tick and why he has taken up the challenge of wowing customers in this Washington DC neighborhood.

JT:  Cedric, how long have you been in this country and what part of France do you come from?

Jay Treadwell

Jay Treadwell

CM:  I have been here now for nine years and originally came from the south of France in Toulon. I attended Hyeres School and the St. Louis Restaurant School there in France.

JT: How and why did you get into the food business?

CM:  Well, I wanted to travel most of all, so I thought the best way to do that was to become a pilot, but I soon realized that that was impractical. The next best way to think of travel was through cooking, or as I called it, “traveling through a dish.” There are three ways to do that as a chef: one, as an ex-pat French chef getting jobs around the world; two, through creating dishes; three, being successful enough to take a vacation. Growing up in a modest family I had access to what our terrior was offering from a huge garden of seasonal fruits and vegetables and then I had access to the rewards the men brought us from the family’s hunting and fishing. Through a dish well made I wanted to duplicate the satisfaction I felt through my family’s cooking around the table. This pleasure of receiving and sharing a great meal directed me to this profession.

Eventually, I went to England, because I felt I needed to learn English in order to add value to the profession. After a few years there, I went back to France.

JT: Where did you work when you went back?

CM: I worked at a 3-star restaurant called La Cote St. Jacques in Burgundy. Originally, I went back on a break to help a friend; I realized, working there, I had to relearn everything!

JT: As you mentioned you came to the United States nine years ago, what brought you here?

CM: I was intrigued when I heard about working in Washington, D.C. and heard about Maestro, which was regarded as a really fine restaurant. I was surprised, though to find out that it was in Tysons Corner – in Virginia; I couldn’t believe it, I guess the term “working in Washington” included the larger metropolitan area. Anyway, I worked there happily for Fabio Trabocchi who was a great influence. After one and a half years there, I was lucky enough to go to work for Michel Richard at Citronelle. The timing was right for working with him; after being there two and a half more years, he was starting Central and asked me to work with him on it. He gave me the opportunity to take full responsibility and, in 2008, we had done well enough to win the James Beard award in 2008 for being the “best new restaurant” in the US. After three years I decided to take another path and start looking for my next culinary challenge.

JT: What do you think of Washington as a restaurant town?

CM: The growth here has been fantastic and reflects, I think, the cultural change in the country as a whole. It is an eclectic community here in the city and I try on my day off to visit as many restaurants as I can. Something else to be noticed is the locavore (propensity for local cuisine) culture that has been re-birthed, finally. I take great pride in being part of that movement as a chef.

JT: What attracted you to change that resulted in coming here to Mintwood Place?

CM: After my “Central Period” a few food journalists heard of my desire to open another restaurant. They called me, asked me questions, and went on to blog about it. I needed a financial partner to pursue my work. A common friend introduced me to Saied Azali, who had just signed a lease for 1813 Columbia Road. We met together, liked each other, and agreed to develop what is now Mintwood Place. We opened the restaurant in January of 2012.

JT:  How have you worked to introduce what you wanted to do here?

CM:  I brought several of the ideas that I developed at Central to facilitate the opening. Making changes as I moved forward to create a more personal identity and to accommodate the market we serve. It was a rustic setting, with reclaimed wood with warm tones and I wanted to develop flavors that reflected that feeling.

JT: How many seats do you have here and how big is your staff?

CM:  We have 80 seats in the main restaurant, 30 in the bar and 24 on the patio during the season. For a restaurant of this size, you might think we really have a large staff: we have 25 now in the kitchen and 25 in the front of the house. We do between 200 to 350 covers a day (we are not open for lunch), so the turns are good, as you can see. We serve six nights and two weekend brunches.

JT: What would you say your signature item is here from the feedback you have received?

CM:  It may be hard to believe, but something that I created was an Escargot Hush Puppy with a Chervil Remoulade sauce. It represents my melting pot of cooking influences.

JT: Where do you see yourself going from here?

CM:  I think I would like to work toward having a restaurant where I have a major ownership interest, where I can be a “job creator.” I feel very strongly about that. Here, Saied feels, as I do, that restaurant workers should make a living wage, where they can support their families and not working for minimum wage that is virtually below the poverty line.

JT:  Cedric, thank you for your time and sharing your story with me today.

CM:  You’re welcome and come back to visit us.

 

 

 

About the Author

Jay Treadwell, FCSI, is General Partner of The Optimum Group, consulting for restaurants, foodservice companies, and is a specialist in start-ups, and independent school foodservice operations. He is also a past president of the Cornell Hotel Society, a worldwide organization of graduates of the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. You may contact him at jay@theoptimumgroup.us , at 301-656-8335 or at (cell) 301-602-9477 www.theoptimumgroup.us

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.