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Dream Kitchens 2012: Secrets of Home Chefs

Pop-up restaurants are hot, with some talented chefs running “supper clubs” out of their apartments or houses. We talked to three home chefs about cooking in small spaces, decorating for a dinner party, favorite tools and gadgets, and more.

Photographs by Andrew Propp.

Grace Lichaa

Day job: Manager at the Capital Area Food Bank and salesperson at New Morning Farm, with farmers’ stands at FreshFarm markets.

Supper club: It’s run through Feastly, an online forum that connects home chefs with diners for pop-up meals. Lichaa’s are typically local and seasonal for groups of 15.

Kitchen: A 12-by-15-foot open kitchen in a rowhouse in DC’s Mount Pleasant.

How she stays organized: “Ziploc bags—they don’t leak, and you can label them.”

Her dream kitchen would have: “A Viking gas range with eight burners, a kimchee refrigerator, and a canning machine, and it would be big, open, and light-filled. Plus a New England-style pantry.”

Favorite gadget: “A crockpot is amazingly useful. You can put something in in the morning, leave for work, and by night you have a full meal. Or you can do a hot soup or drink for a dinner party and keep it warm.”

Dinner-party decorations: “I like to decorate my table with herbs. I arrange carrot tops into a centerpiece. I also like to write menus so people can remember the meal.”

Space saver: “Ikea has great jars with magnets on the bottom, which attach to your refrigerator.”

Tom Madrecki

Day job: PR manager for a nonprofit.

Supper club: Chez Le Commis, where a dozen guests are served four “modern minimalist” courses such as pork with tobacco-infused oil.

Kitchen: A six-by-nine-foot space in a one-bedroom Clarendon condo.

Background: Stints at Noma in Copenhagen and Le Chateaubriand in Paris.

Favorite tools: “Offset spatulas; Mac knives, specifically the 10¾-inch chef’s and five-inch utility professional models; and a knife stone. Also a chinois [a fine-mesh sieve] for making pure, clean sauces and stocks.”

Cheap find: “Bialetti makes a small nonstick sauté pan ($12) that’s sold at Target and a lot of grocery stores. Crappy, way too light, but it’s the greatest omelet pan ever.”

What he cleans with: A spray bottle of vinegar. “You can wipe down a plate that gets a little sauce on it or clean off a stove while it’s still hot.”

Presentation: Use simple dinnerware. “I have basic Crate & Barrel Essential Collection white bowls—they go from cereal in the morning to plated desserts at night—and white plates from Ikea.”

Geeta

Day job: Part-time teacher.

Supper club: Hush, where 12 guests are served family-style Gujarati Jain foods, a vegetarian tradition from western India.

Kitchen: An 8-by-12-foot galley kitchen in a three-bedroom rowhouse near DC’s U Street.

Dinner-party tip: “There are always four milk bottles full of water in my fridge so I have water ready to go for the table. No rushing around filling water when guests arrive.”

Entertaining must-have: “Go to Marshalls or HomeGoods and buy every type of glass. I have 24 each of Champagne flutes, martini glasses, lowballs, and highballs, and I keep them in boxes and just pull them out. They don’t get dusty that way.”

Spice storage: “I have 80 or 90 canisters from Ikea that I use to store spices, lentils, and rice. They would be three times more expensive if I bought them elsewhere.”

Time-saver: “Any vegetarian who cooks a lot of beans and lentils is wasting their time if they don’t have a pressure cooker.”

Decorating tip: “A lot of candles. A high vase with flowers impedes conversation. I like to decorate the room—not the table—with flowers.”

And the mask? Her underground supper club has an air of mystery and secrecy. She often wears a mask at dinner parties.

Explore More Dream Kitchens ››


This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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