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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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.