A few weeks ago, I got a chance to head into the H Street corridor to meet and interview one of my favorite DC chefs – Chef Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s, and winner of Food Network’s Bobby Flay’s Throwdown (Season 5, Episode 2’s ‘Mussels and Fries’) and I have to say, I couldn’t have asked for a better interviewee. Chef Teddy was a pleasure to interview, and his contagiously cheerful and eccentric personality explains the unforgettably bold and vibrant flavors on the menu; such as the Chipotle Lime Moules, Frites with Truffle Aioli and Curried Ketchup dipping sauces. If his double fried frites and six dipping sauces don’t have you munching and dipping endlessly, then the bottomless basket of bread, with leftover pumpkin, blue cheese, garlic, or chipotle lime broth from your mussels will.
Read more about Chef Teddy’s inspiration, what he wants to say to other aspiring chefs, how he found the courage to quit his robotic job to chase his dreams, and how he ended up doing it here in our very own Nation’s Capital.
1) Tell us a little about your inspirations for your menu and what new visitors can expect on their first visit.
A: Basically, we’re like a little gastro pub with a little more style. The food is what you could expect from a bar or a tavern – restaurant quality food in a non-pretentious bar atmosphere, where its’ focus is on the main ingredients.
2) And where do your ingredients come from?
A: We get our mussels from Prince Edward Island, from a fishery called Icy Blue. When we first opened, we tried out six different mussels, all from different farms. We worked on this for about 3 months.
[ Granville Moore’s Antipasto | artisan cheeses, cured meats, olives, truffle-fig chutney, balsamic wedge caesar salad ]
3) What are one of your favorite dishes on the menu?
A: I’ve always been a fan of the blue cheese mussels, they’ve just meant everything to this place. It’s a kooky concept that I came up with right at this bar, and has grown into what it is now. It just started out with some bacon and some crappy blue cheese, onions, but then we refined it, added some spinach for color, found some amazing blue cheese from a wisconsin creamery that we now probably burn through 24 to 30 pounds a week.
4) After graduating from JMU, how did you know that you wanted to become a chef?
A: I’ve been cooking since I was 14, and I’ve always done it as a hobby and as a part time job. I wasn’t playing sports in school, I was working at a deli in New York, and it got to the point where I was doing a lot of catering for this deli… and I just fell in love with the place, watching eggplant turn into eggplant parmesan. It was always instant gratification finishing a dish and being able to taste and see the difference.
(Cooking) has always been a hobby or job that I did very well and was always fun to do. In college I was bartending, waiting tables, managing restaurants, and cooking – so I had always been doing it but not thinking of pursuing it as a career. Until 3 or 4 years after I graduated from college – I was frustrated because I didn’t like what I did. I was making really good money, I had a great benefits, free weekends, but I had no passion behind it and I thought – wow I’m like a robot. I did a lot of volunteer work and kept on cooking; cooked for friends for parties, but I eventually quit my job and went to culinary school where I got my first job at C’est Bon French at the Reef Hotel which became my first linecooking job.
[ Double Fried Frites with Dipping Sauces : Roasted Garlic-Horseradish Sauce • Truffle Aioli • Chipotle Mayo • Curried Ketchup • Dijonnaise ]
5) Having grown up in NY, one of the largest culinary meccas of the country – what made you want to cook in DC?
A: I went to college in Harrisonburg where I met my best friend who moved to DC. My sister also went to school there, so it seemed like I didn’t really want to go back home. It’s funny because I don’t think my parents understood my sister and I. They would ask us – “Why would you want to move out of the block? Just stay in our house and take over after we move out.” And that was sort of what people in my town did, but my sister and I got out of there and found our own selves.
6) What do you think of the revitalization of H Street?
A: I think it just proves what neighborhoods and people can do. When I first saw this neighborhood about 4 years ago, it pretty much seemed like an abandoned neighborhood. Even when I lived here 5-10 years ago, I never went this way, but now I think it’s beautiful, because it actually is a corridor that is built on the values of its’ community. Its’ become a community of restaurants where every single restaurant on this block is not in competition with the another. We are helping each other, and we’re getting better police protection in the area as well. We’re getting new sidewalks, a shuttle, and a trolley system that will not only be a great form of transportation for the people who come here, but also people who live by this area – which again is something that the entire restaurant community has come together and thought – ‘we need to figure out how to get our customers here!’ So it’s really cool the way this whole community is put together to become an active whole. I feel like it’s one big happy family.
7) For all the young aspiring chefs out there, what are three pieces of advice you would want to give them?
A: One – be patient, because it’s not going to happen over night, and its something that you’ll really have to work hard at. I started out as a dish washer, so with being patient you have to be humble. You have to learn from your mistakes, learn from others, deal with and respect what other people say – and do it for no other reason than to learn everybody’s way as much as you can. Constantly learn. One of the coolest things is learning new things from other cooks, and thinking – well, how about this? Don’t be afraid to try new things. I mean some of my dishes started out horrible, but then it grew into something great.
1238 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Also – a special thanks to Angela Pan of A B Pan Photography for taking the photos of this interview. Thank you so much, Angela!