Out of the Kitchen: Local Chefs Playing a Different Tune

There’s a natural music in the kitchen—the rhythm of knives, the hum of the meat slicer, the sizzle of the grill. Some chefs keep rocking out after their shifts. These four are just as comfortable playing music as they are wielding a boning knife.

Vikram Sunderam: Chef at Rasika and Rasika West End

Instrument: Tabla, an Indian-style pair of drums.

His learning process: “If I hear something often enough, I can play it.”

Tip for tabla mastery: “You play with your hands, so you have to have skillful fingers.”

Influences: Indian tabla maestros Zakir Hussain and Alla Rakha.

Where he plays now: “I have a tabla set and a drum kit at home, so I definitely keep the neighbors up.”

What he listens to in the kitchen: Pop, rock, Bollywood tunes, Hindi music.

Finish reading this story on Washingtonian‘s Best Bites blog now.

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Market to Table – Farmers’ products offer restaurateurs inspiration, local sourcing

Most chefs have to drive – or at least walk – to get to a farmers market. Cedar’s executive chef Aaron McCloud just steps out the front door. Situated at the center of Washington, D.C.’s heavily trafficked Penn Quarter neighborhood, the FRESHFARM Market is open Thursday afternoons from late March until the end of December. Every week, McCloud takes a swing through the sprawl of stalls to source fresh produce and proteins for his New American focused menu. “We cook whatever’s good that day,” he says. “So we reprint the menu three or four times a week.”

Strolling through the tables and tents, the smell of fresh cut flowers, a bounty of herbs, and wood smoke – courtesy of a mobile pizza oven – mix together to create an intoxicating blend. A violinist plays off to one side, his energetic melody intertwining with the chatter of shoppers and the clatter of commerce. McCloud first stops in at Gunpowder Bison & Trading Co. to look at some Delmonico steaks that he thinks might be a good entrée at dinner service that night. Ultimately, he decides to hold off on purchasing them until he sees what else is available this week.

After chatting with some farmers to find out whether they offer wholesale pricing for restaurants and to exchange contact information with vendors he hasn’t worked with before, he picks up a two chunks of slightly nutty Piedmont cheese from Everona Dairy. But the purchase doesn’t inspire him as a main course component. Then he comes across bags of stinging nettles at the Evensong Farm stand. “Maybe a quick sauté with these in some saffron butter and the Delmonico steaks,” he thinks out loud. For good measure, he picks up two-dozen just-gathered eggs.

McCloud isn’t the only one taking advantage of the just-harvested bounty on display today. “It’s a chef-centric market,” says Ann Harvey Yonkers, executive co-director FRESHFARM Markets. “There’s always a plethora of white jackets shopping.” Some of Washington, D.C.’s top chefs frequent this market, including Fiola’s Fabio Trabocchi, Bibiana’s Nicholas Stefanelli, Poste’s Dennis Marron, and the chefs from José Andrés’ThinkFoodGroup restaurants. They don’t just shop there – they’re intimately involved. Many of them have done live cooking demos for the Chef At Market program, while two highly respected chefs sit on the board – Nora Pouillon from Restaurant Nora and Cathal Armstrong from Restaurant Eve.

If chefs can’t make this Thursday market or are seeking out different vendors, they have plenty of choices. There are nearly 100 markets of varying size and frequency in and around the District. Chefs across the country are seeing their options expand on this front. Local Harvest, a searchable database of farmers markets, family farms, and sustainable producers, lists almost 6,000 farmers markets in the United States.

Finish reading this story on the Restaurant MGMT website now.

Photo of Cedar’s executive chef Aaron McCloud chatting with a vendor at the FRESHFARM Market in DC’s Penn Quarter.

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Little Bites: Aaron McCloud of Cedar’s Spiced Duck Cracklings with Red Curried Ketchup

Oftentimes chefs don’t want to cook another meal when they get home after an arduous 12-hour stretch behind the burners. But throwing together a comforting snack to help take the edge off the day is another proposition entirely. These scrumptious nibbles don’t require a degree from the Culinary Institute of America to make, but they’re worthy of winning a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge.

This week, Cedar’s executive chef Aaron McCloud shares his personal recipe for spice-laden duck cracklings paired with a curry ‘n’ citrus infused ketchup. These crunchy quackers aren’t anything like you’ll find in the chip aisle of the supermarket, but they’re so good that you may not be able to pick up a bag of Doritos ever again.

Get the recipe over on CityEats’ Plate blog now.

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