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Bitch at Us: Cedric Maupillier of Mintwood Place

Washington, DC
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Those who only go to Adams Morgan for bar-hopping have clearly never stepped foot in Mintwood Place. The American restaurant with French influences is a culinary gem located in the heart of the neighborhood. Chef Cedric Maupillier, formerly of Central, has garnered plenty of praise (he just landed the No. 2 spot on critic Tom Sietsema’s 2014 dining guide) and even played host to POTUS.

Now, he is venturing out to Shaw where he will open Convivial, a more casual restaurant concept. We stopped by to indulge on pancakes, steak and eggs, and the “hangover special” at brunch to talk all things Mintwood, famous guests, and plans for the future. Check out what he had to say, and read our review here.

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Where is your favorite place to brunch in town?

I don’t brunch. I work so I’m always here and, if not, I’m sleeping. There are different kinds of brunch like a hotel brunch at Blue Duck Tavern or restaurants like Et Voila in Palisades. It’s very cozy and has a very French feeling. The chef is a good friend of mine.

What is your favorite dish to cook for brunch?

Pancakes. We take a lot of pride in our pancakes so before we opened the restaurant, I bought a cast iron dish from Amish Pennsylvania and I brought it back here. We cook all of our pancakes on it so they get very crispy on one side and fluffy inside and the maple syrup is from there so it’s very comforting and American.

Do you prefer to go out for brunch or eat in?

My answer is limited because I’m usually working brunch so if I wasn’t working, I would say I would be up for the end of brunch. I would love to be out because I would love to have someone clean the dishes for me. I love to eat out as much as I can while working in the restaurant.

What brunch item do you have to order if it’s on the menu?

Bacon and Eggs Benedict. I don’t know why but there’s something about the english muffin, nice poached eggs, and the sauce on top that works very well. It’s very creamy when you break into the eggs. I think the hollandaise does it for me. We use flat bread orginally from Alsace and we cook it in a wood burning oven for 3-4 minutes with crème fraiche, white onion, nutmeg, and finish it with mushrooms and a sunny side egg so you have everything in one order.

What is your favorite item on Mintwood Place’s brunch menu? What is the most-ordered item?

My favorite would have to be the mushroom with flammekueche with a sunny side up egg. What we sell the most  would have to be the pancakes and we have a great waffle that is very light and fluffy but still crispy on the outside.

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Do you prefer Bloody Marys or mimosas?

Bloody Marys. I make a mix in the restaurant with fresh tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, cornichon jus, Worcestershire sauce, classic celery salt, and always dijon mustard, which is very American. I add Crystal’s hot sauce and finish it with vodka. The cheap vodka will do with some olives and I’m very happy. I usually like it virgin because I always work and I don’t drink at work.

If you had to invite a group of local celebrities to brunch, who would they be?

It wouldn’t be my friends, because when people I know start becoming celebrities, they stop becoming my friends. It would be interesting because we’re in D.C. to have Boehner, Obama, and Clinton. I would like to witness some political passion and action. It would be fun to have a few Bloody Marys and see what happens.

Mintwood Place has received tons of great publicity and certainly has seen its fair share of VIPs. But the question we all want to know is what happens on a night when the President comes into the restaurant?

It’s a great night but, as a Frenchman, it was a dream come true. The president doesn’t just show up; it’s a long preparation. There’s a lot of security so we’re all ready and prepared to have him for dinner. When he comes to you and thanks you, you have to put that in perspective. Fifty years from now you’ll remember that the first black president shook your hand and ate at your restaurant. I have a thank you note that I can frame and give to my kids.

Having the president next to you and thanking you is a privilege, so we feel humble when he comes in. Having him here was extraordinary but we have been asked by White House staff to be discrete about what happened, so we don’t want to promote anything. We love him. I was working at Central the day of the inauguration and Obama came out of his car in front of the restaurant and waved. I brought my whole family to come see my special day.

No matter what your politics are, I think he is a great man. Everyone says the current president is the worst president, but he’s trying hard.

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Mintwood Place recently landed the No. 2 spot on Tom Sietsema’s 2014 Fall Dining Guide. Does having a critic in the dining room affect service?

Number two spot on the list is daunting because there’s only one way down. It was very flattering but he explained to me that it’s not the best restaurants, but the restaurants he wanted to go back more often. At Mintwood, you can go back and have different items or bring different friends and they won’t feel out of place. This is the kind of place people want to go not for a special occasion, but all the time. I’m extremely flattered that he chose us as his number two and it gave us a tremendous boost in our business. I won’t lie to you when I say that the critics are known and you can find their picture so there are things we can do special for them.

When I was at Central, I made an appetizer for a critic with extra things and he wrote us a great review and then everyone was asking me for that dish, so people started to complain. I wanted to please the critic and it was a mistake. Everybody that we recognize we try to treat as important as anyone who walks into the restaurant because people would be jealous. If the critic sees you switching the service, then it’s not very fair and we don’t want that and we should we be criticized.

We don’t want to be criticized in a fake way. We just try to do what we do best. We don’t have time to stop for anyone who is a VIP, but it’s about how we treat everyone. We don’t want to operate obnoxiously and we want the service to be what we do all the time. We try to correct any issues with service all the time and if you’re disappointed, we want to have you back. We want that to be a tool for bringing in more business. It’s very personal because I work so hard so when I read a bad review, it’s very disappointing.

Adams Morgan has a rapidly changing food scene and has become a dining destination as of late. What do you think spurred the change? Where do you think the neighborhood is headed?

Well I’m not from here, but I can tell you stories. Twenty years ago, it used to be a food scene with chefs like Anne Cashion and Roberto Donna. Jose Andres also used to work at Cashion’s. The neighborhood is known as more of a frat boyish bar scene on a weekend and I don’t like that because I’m not that age anymore. All the good chefs that were here have been gone for a long time besides Cashion’s and Perry’s. I believe in Adams Morgan and that it can be like a 14th street. We want to make it attractive for the business and the customer and I think the neighborhood has the charm 14th street doesn’t have. There are new developments everywhere so, in the next two or three years, we will have a resurgence of Adams Morgan.

You used to work for Michel Richard at Central. What influence did he have on your culinary career?

Michel opened the doors for me. He offered me to be in charge of opening Central but he gave me freedom and the confidence to be myself. We won the James Beard award for best restaurant in 2008 so I worked with the best in D.C. He gave me the chance to be responsible. He put the bar very high—almost unreachable—so every day was a challenge. When we won the James Beard award, we had tears of joy and it was almost like a dream was reached, but it allowed us to have bigger and better dreams.

What kinds of thing will we see on Mintwood Place’s Thanksgiving menu this year? What would you have at your ideal Thanksgiving meal?

I’ve started learning Thanksgiving in America. We have a fowl consommé with Parisian gnocchi so it’s like a chicken broth soup with some gnocchi which is very comforting with a French influence. We love the Amish turkey moist breasts and crispy skin legs with stuffing made with porcini mushrooms and chestnuts. We serve it with a nice giblet gravy and the cranberry-orange sauce and it comes with a side of wood grilled bacon brussel sprouts tossed in molasses and vinegar glaze and wood oven roasted sweet potatoes. For dessert, I don’t like pumpkin pie so I would get chess pie with poached pear and plum sauce.

We are beyond excited for your upcoming restaurant, Convivial, headed to Shaw. What can we expect from the new concept? Will it share any similarities with Mintwood Place?

Well the family is expanding but I will take the same approach as Mintwood. It will be an American restaurant with French accents. We will try to be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The crowed will be different. I will have a much better sound system over there and the sound proofing will be much better. The food at Mintwood is a hybrid between bistro and Italian and this one will be a hybrid between a cafe and a diner, which means the price point will be lower and the portion size will be slightly smaller.

I want people to sample more food but I also want people to have the option to have a larger portion on one plate so we’ll offer the regular portion and the double size. We want people to be able to have three or four plates and not break the bank but we’ll offer double size if they don’t want the smaller size. The wine list will be very affordable. We will select great $60 and under wines and we will have a few reserved wines for the bigger expense accounts. You can come back with a friend and do the tasting menu at night and breakfast and lunch will be more cafe style. At dinner time, I want to attract people and have it become a destination. I want it to be a great and affordable restaurant.

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  1. As soon as I read the part about doing special things for critics I wanted to vomit. That’s what I hate about working industry in dc, the critics are sucked up to. I think all patrons should get the same experience, unless you’re my mother. Horrible ethic, bribing the scum.

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