all photos: Dakota Fine
Co-owner and head chef of Red Hen, Mike Friedman (who recently won both Rising Star Best Chef and Best New Restaurant at 2014 Rammy’s), lives in Takoma Park with his wife Ashley and 8-month-old daughter Addison. They recently renovated their home and it now showcases the treasures they’ve found while antique-ing. Throw in their energetic daschund Lucy and this family is the epitome of the American Dream (you know, the cool, award winning kind).
Cookbooks and antiques are scattered across their wooden living room table to be placed about the house. Friedman says he was 22 and trying to figure out his life when he would read cookbooks to calm himself down. That’s where the obsession began and now it’s two, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves deep. His favorites include: anything by Ottolenghi, Thomas Keller, and Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers. He says Sunday Suppers is fantastic cover-to-cover.
Mike, who is Vince Vaughan level of hilarious, grew up in a Jewish household in an Italian community. His mother was the cook of the house while his father’s signature dish was a chicken sandwich on white bread with mayo.
Their family meals were a mix of both Jewish and Italian foods. The love for Italian stuck with him and is still his favorite to cook. “I’ve got a lot of dope pastas,” he says pulling packs of pasta out of his pantry and explaining which part of Italy each pasta is from. One in particular is Fregla Sarda toasted pasta which is toasted before it’s made. Speaking of this beauty, Red Hen currently has a dish with toasted pasta and scallops.
He learned how to cook by starting with French food and then worked his way into Italian food. Although he loves going out and eating at Asian restaurants, he never cooks Asian food. “I’m just not Asian. I’m not good at it.”
Mike originally worked in NYC and came down to D.C to work with Jose Andres. He worked at Zaytinya and a few other restaurants before opening Red Hen. He’s very close with the entire Jose Andres team and says they’re expanding exponentially. The next thing on Jose Andres’ agenda is to create healthy fast food because he really wants Americans to be healthy. The last time Mike saw him, Jose slapped him for going in for a hug. Because foreign people prefer kissing cheeks.
The family does most of their shopping at Giant or Trader Joe’s, and the fridge is almost all condiments and drinks. Things they always have in the fridge include butter, milk chocolate and prune juice. Mike thinks butter is just something he should always have, Ashley is a chocolate milk fanatic and “cleared out creameries” during her pregnancy, and sometimes baby Addison needs to poop. Hence, prune juice. Adorable.
Mike enjoys buying good beers but always loves drinking Miller Lite. “I’m a patio pounder. I like wheat beer and I don’t like drinking anything that makes me feel full.” The bottom shelf holds Corona and Dogfish. He also has a six-pack of Big D.C Brown.
The condiments are his influence too. He has sauerkraut, horseradish, Lisa’s pear butter (from his friend Lisa’s farm in Maryland), and Mina Harissa spicy pepper sauce. Mike has some of Gordy’s Pickles and really likes the people that work there (take a look at Gordy’s Pickles owners’ fridge here).
Sunday is the family’s token cooking day and other than that Mike usually doesn’t cook at home. They like to wake up and go to the Takoma farmer’s market and buy fresh food to make for the day. They have an entire drawer of fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market in a drawer of their fridge. “We try to eat vegetables, you know? But this little one,” he says wiggling Addison, “eats veggies all the time.” Last weekend Mike made a vegetable pasta for the family. Looking at Lucy wiggle around his legs, Mike says, “Don’t you just want to kill her and eat her. You know, being a chef I always want to know what things would taste like cooked. She’d cook up just like a little rabbit.”
Even though he only cooks on Sundays, Mike doesn’t bring food home from the restaurant for the family because they’re usually asleep by the time he’s back. He loves Mexican food and regularly goes out to eat it. “I don’t try and go to the best Mexican food place in D.C. No, I’ll eat Tex-Mex, I don’t care.”
“What’s up mocchi” he said to the frozen package in the freezer. The freezer door had a few small bottles of alcohol which led into a discussion on how he left Jaeger behind in college after many series of Jaeger bombs. What’s the one item the Red Hen head chef swears by and stands by? Trader Joe’s Tarte aux Champignons. Essentially, a frozen pizza.