By Chester Simpson
9030 Lucia Lane
George Washington Parkway
I attended college at VCU in Richmond for business and found myself working in kitchens. While in Richmond, I worked at Complete Catering, The Jefferson Hotel, and Dogwood Grille. Here in Northern Virginia and DC, I worked at IL Radicchio and L’Enfant Cafe.
When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
After school, my brother and I would create different snacks for ourselves and friends and that sparked some interest. We come from a family that loves cooking and being together for meals. Even though I was a picky eater growing up, now I’ll eat just about anything.
I would say that I fell into a culinary career more than I sought it out. When I was a kid I wanted to be a professional baseball player just like a million others. Then during high school and parts of college, I was ready to become a musician if the opportunity came about. I had a job at a pizza shop in Warrenton, VA when I was 15 and found myself in the same line of work in college, but on a higher level. I worked at a few nice spots in Richmond while attending VCU and it was at a catering company there that I realized that I excelled in this business. Ten years later with more catering, hotel, and restaurant business experience, I established a small catering business, The Joy of Eating. This is the short version of what led us to Cedar Knoll.
Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career?
Both of my grandmothers were inspiring to me, because they really enjoyed the details of preparing a meal and how it brought everyone together to assist with the tasks in the kitchen before enjoying the fruits of our labor. Early on, I first saw some Charlie Trotter books that caught my eye and realized how in depth the culinary world is as well as the art that comes out of it. I have always admired Patrick O’Connell and his magical place out in Little Washington.
What dish on your menu are you most curious to see how it’s received?
I suppose if I had to pick one, it would be the Rainbow Trout. Like many of our dishes, it was a collaboration between the sous chefs and me. We use a local trout and combine it with other regional ingredients such as Virginia peanuts and our applesauce. Then we place it on Biryani rice alongside a cilantro mint chutney.
What do you do to ensure that the quality of the food going out to customers is of a high standard?
We taste everything and are stiff critics of our food. We pay attention to what we are putting on the plate and take pride in what we are presenting to them.
If any chef in the world could prepare you a meal, who would it, be?
Jacques Pepin. But he would have to let me cook with him.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty at all saying pizza.
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