Photos by Clarissa Villondo
It would be an understatement to say Erik Bruner-Yang is a busy man, the last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. From being nominated for The RAMMYS Chef of the Year, to moving on from Toki Underground (to a brand new project in Adams Morgan), to releasing a collaboration with Shake Shack, I think we can all agree that what he can get done in a week is fairly impressive, which is why I was dying to take a look at his kitchen.
Going through people’s fridges is a deeply strange process. You’re poking around in what is a surprisingly intimate part of their home. What’s stocked in your fridge (and how it’s organized) says a lot more about who you are as a person than you would think.
Some chefs are more protective about their fridges than others. Sometimes, I walk into a kitchen and I can tell right away that they cleaned and organized the shit out of it before I’ve arrived. Bruner-Yang was not afraid to show me his unedited and unadulterated fridge. So much so, he let my photographer and myself basically poke around unsupervised while he was off dominating D.C.’s food scene (like I said, he’s a busy man).
After wandering around (and almost getting lost down the labyrinthine hallways of The Hecht Warehouse Apartments) we finally made it to Bruner-Yang’s door, where I immediately felt like I was at home. While I expected something straight out of Apartment Therapy, Bruner-Yang’s kitchen felt almost like a normal person’s (read: not a famous chefs) kitchen.
The fruit bowl had a mix of fruit and decidedly non-fruit items (just like at my house!) and there wasn’t much that seemed exceptionally or obviously gourmet, at least from my untrained eye. Opening the fridge, my eyes first wandered to the bottles upon bottles of Perrier. These people are serious about sparkling water.
Digging deeper, I spied English muffins (breakfast game must be A+), eggs, blueberries, and a good amount of citrus. From Clementines (Cuties or die) to picture perfect limes, whether you’re looking for a drink garnish or simply getting your daily vitamin C, Bruner-Yang’s fridge is prepared.
Asking about the stack of take out, Seda Nak, Bruner-Yang’s wife laughs, “We equally do not cook.” They’re new to the area, so they’re still trying to find a perfect delivery spot (a noble quest, indeed), but when they have the day off they like to make the drive to Pho Sate in Falls Church.
Did I mention they have the most space age water pitcher I’ve ever seen? It looks a little like Kubrick designed it.
Moving onto the side door is where things get a little more interesting, there are staples like coconut water, delicious looking Carolina Gold BBQ sauce and sriracha, but there is also a jar of pickled lotus root, a package of cai chua (sour mustard greens), and a jar of got red kreung (Cambodia’s #1 marinade according to the label).
When it comes to alcohol, Bruner-Yang keeps it local with a bottle of Ivy City gin and some coffee tonic straight from Baltimore’s Artifact Coffee.
The freezer holds a generous pile of frozen waffles, a little pint of strawberry ice cream, and what seems to be a sleeve of frozen Girl Scout cookies, all of which forced me to consciously remind myself not to steal.
When asking Nak what she absolutely has to have stocked at all times, the answer is clear, “Milk and sparking water!” And although she doesn’t have any in the fridge right now, she has a soft spot for Celeste frozen pizza, which is the perfect comfort food.