All Photos: Jeff Martin
I have to give it to Convivial’s head chef (and idea man), Cedric Maupillier. He was a good sport about the whole situation. Despite being a man who values his privacy, he graciously invited the very nosey (and we mean that in a charming way) BYT team, to not only to stick our faces into Convivial’s huge kitchen fridge, but also allowed us to traipse around his own personal kitchen, located high above the restaurant in question. Luckily, we were there for a very good reason. Cedric, who is the force behind other BYT favorites like Mintwood Place, had not only been recently nominated for RAMMYS Chef of the Year, but Convivial was also on the shortlist for Best Pastry Chef (Eva Kronenburg!), as well as New Restaurant of the Year.
When I met the celebrated chef at Convivial right after the nominations were announced, he was honest to me about his trepidation. He thought the idea was silly, and he wasn’t really interested, but after some (gentle) pushing, he eventually agreed. Like most sane people, one of the first things he said to me that day was that he had spent the night before completely cleaning out his fridge.
Which is funny in retrospect, because Cedric has one of the loveliest refrigerators I’ve seen since I started at BYT (and I’ve seen a decent amount of strangers fridges). I can say without a doubt that Martha Stewart would certainly approve. From the fridge door filled with life affirming (and hangover reducing) coconut water, to the heart stopping lamb chops (seriously, this should be in every food magazine), Cedric’s fridge is all of the kitchen inspiration you will ever need.
But before we had the opportunity to check out his personal kitchen, everything began with the professional, commercial kitchen of Convivial. After stuffing our faces with chocolate chip muffin tops (which were, Willy Wonka style, just hanging out on a random cooling rack in the kitchen), we made our way through the stainless steel wonderland that is Convivial. Like an army, a variety of cooks were attending to various stations, preparing for dinner that night. It was wildly and upsettingly well organized. If you’re feeling a little lost and ever need something to kick you into gear (especially when it comes to organizing your own kitchen), we thoroughly recommend touring the kitchen at Convivial. Their dishes may be magical, but the chefs themselves are a well oiled machine.
Finally, Chef Cedric took us up through the elevator, into his delightful apartment, and it is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful homes we’ve I’ve seen in D.C. From the floor to ceiling windows, to the all purpose bar / book shelf / knick knack display curio, we were sold from the get go.
Opening Cedric’s fridge, I was not surprised to see it’s incredibly clean and very well organized. Even though he had already admitted to cleaning everything up before hand, it was pretty obvious from the state of his commercial kitchen that he’s a very organized person in general.
Immediately, we start chatting about his essentials. Cedric admits that the few things he always needs in his kitchen are Dijon mustard, Hellman’s mayo, and organic whole milk. While all that may be true, the first thing I notice in Cedric’s fridge is the large amount of sparking white wine bottles. Explaining his grocery habits, he admits that he also purchases a lot of cheese and meats as well.
“Your body always craves it,” says Cedric. “When I think about food I always salivate.”
Which is not at all surprising, because Cedric seems like man that is truly in love with food. During our time there, he again and again excitedly shows us a variety of fantastic food, from a beautiful whole grain loaf from Bread Furst, to a homemade IPA given to him by a friend. Digging deeper, we also spy a few cans of DC Brau Pils and some seriously photogenic vegetables along with the aforementioned lamb that Cedric plans on cooking the next night.
Moving on to the freezer, the first thing we notice is a huge jug of maple syrup from New York, right next to a slim bottle of icewine. We also spy some blackened bananas (that the chef uses to make smoothies) and a good amount of coffee. Asking him about his wine and coffee preferences Cedric explains, “I’m not a wine nerd or a coffee nerd, I’m a more simple person… I just want it to be good.”
While he sets up a charcuterie board on the fly (Cedric’s fridge has enough cheese and meat he could probably set up a million perfect charcuterie boards), we talk a little bit about where he goes out to eat in his spare time. The Dabney, Kinship, Eat the Rich, and Mockingbird Hill are all in the Chef’s rotation, but it’s SUNdeVICH’s Madrid sandwich, with chorizo and chimichurri, that he spends the most time talking about.
After spending an hour with him, it’s abundantly clear that Chef Cedric Maupillier knows what’s good.