Headshot courtesy of Shouk; all other photos by Dennis Friedman
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Who: Dennis Friedman, 41 Lives: Bethesda
Does: Shouk co-owner and chef
Dennis Friedman has a busy schedule. Throughout the day, he’s bouncing between Shouk’s two fast-casual, plant-based locations in Mt. Vernon Triangle and Union Market, feeding and taking care of this three children, and finding time to take care of himself, too.
Friedman has eaten a plant-based diet for over two years, and calls his approach to food simple: “Plant-based dining is the only sustainable way forward,” he says. “The less processed, the better.”
That doesn’t mean he only eats leafy greens, though. “My food addiction is pizza,” says Friedman. “We make pizza in my house a multitude of different ways. Everything from cauliflower crust to homemade doughs and, yes, even pizza toast for breakfast with sliced rosemary bread from Lyon Bakery topped with shredded vegan cheese purchased at Mom’s Market.”
Here’s what he cooks and eats throughout a day to get him from point A to point B.
“My alarm goes off at the same time Monday through Friday and the race begins. Bleary-eyed, I first grab my middle son Lucas, 4, get him rinsed off, changed, and head downstairs so I can start making him breakfast. Lucas usually asks for gluten-free pancakes with syrup, but the syrup cannot be touching the pancakes on the plate or all hell will break loose. If it’s not pancakes, it’s eggs, and both are accompanied by fresh berries or fruit and “squishy toast,” as my kids call it. It’s nothing more than a thick slice of challah bread toasted brown with coconut oil and some finishing rock salt.
“Once Lucas has started eating, I dash back upstairs and wake my oldest daughter Natalie, 6, get her dressed, and quickly make her a toasted bagel with lox and cream cheese, fresh fruit, and a glass of juice. In the morning, I’m lucky if I have a bite of my son’s pancakes or daughter’s fruit and a few sips of water. At this point, the pressure is on to get my son to school and then head to Shouk’s Mount Vernon location to make sure morning catering orders go out and the team is set for a successful start to the day. I am a big fan of intermittent fasting and find if I wait to eat later in the day, I can move and function at a much faster pace without any sluggishness. I would consider my main meal of the day dinner and it’s usually at a very late hour.”
“By now, I’ve made my way from Bethesda to DC and checked in with all of my managers. With only an hour to go till the stores open, I’ll do my final check and tastings to make sure everything is correctly prepared and high quality. We taste almost every component of every dish. It’s imperative this happens daily to ensure a consistent product. It also serves as my pseudo-snack/light breakfast. Once tastings are done, I go for my morning cup of coffee to really start the engine before the doors open to the public. Since I’m at the Mount Vernon location, I go to La Colombe and get a large dark roast coffee and drink it black.”
“I head over to Shouk’s Union Market location to check in on commissary production. I quickly stop next door at Pluma to grab an avocado toast. I know avocado toast has been overplayed, but at Pluma, it’s next level. Then I jump in my car and eat the avocado toast while driving back to Shouk Mount Vernon to help the team, as the ongoing convention down the street has brought a line of people out the front door and around the corner.”
“Once the lunch rush has subsided, I turn my attention to research and development. I’ve been working on some exciting new menu items. My team and I nibble on different combinations of flavors and textures while discussing the components of the dish and offering opinions and feedback. I then get a second cup of coffee before a construction meeting for an exciting new project in the pipeline.”
“Time to head home for the day. My wife calls and ask me to stop at Mom’s Organic Grocery to pick up a few things for dinner and the kids’ lunch tomorrow. I really believe between my wife and myself, we are at the Mom’s on Rockville Pike every day. It’s very expensive, but it is so important for us to eat organic and feed our kids organic. My wife and kids are not strictly vegan, but they eat a mainly plant-based diet. Once I get home from the grocery store, I join my wife in the kitchen. She already has a pot of rice and lentils cooking. I quickly wash and break down a head of cauliflower, cut up two zucchini and a few potatoes, and season everything with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, cumin, and roast it in the oven. After feeding and corralling my three kids, my wife and I scarf down whatever is leftover from the pot and kids’ plates.”
“Finally finished bathing the kids, brushing their teeth, tucking them in, taking them to pee, tucking them in two-to-three more times, and getting them some water. By 10 PM I go downstairs, turn on the oven, and put in an Amy’s vegan, organic frozen pizza. Once cooked, I quickly eat it and get about 30 minutes of TV before my youngest son Miles, 15 months, wakes up and the routine starts all over again.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.