Chef David Deshaies, executive chef of Central, has spent the better part of his culinary career in America working for famed French chef, Michel Richard. It is no wonder, then, that he is turning out some of the best food in the city at his downtown restaurant.
On recent visits to brunch, we have enjoyed a decadent crème brulee French toast and an unbelievable croque madame. In fact, we love his French toast so much; we named it on our favorite of 2014. At dinner, Chef David makes classic French cuisine in the best possible way—think Gougéres, steak frites, and heavenly desserts. And those macarons are to die for. (Read our recent recap of the Beaujolais Noveau dinner.)
Prior to Central, Chef David was the executive chef at Michel Richard’s Citronelle, repeatedly heralded as the best restaurant in the District. Incidentally, he also worked there with Mintwood Place Chef Cedric Maupillier, who even served as the best man in his wedding. Fans of Citronelle who are still mourning the loss should head to Central on New Year’s Eve, when they will be hosting a dinner featuring favorites from the former restaurant.
We sat down with David to talk about working with Michel Richard, that famous fried chicken, and his fabulous French-American cuisine. Check it out what had to say below. Don’t forget to read our brunch review of Central and check out what we’d wear to a holiday meal at the restaurant in our Side of Style.
Where is your favorite place to brunch in town?
I’m working so I don’t brunch. We are open for brunch, so that’s where I eat. If I went out, I think I would go to Mintwood Place. Cedric was my best man in my wedding and used to be my sous chef at Citronelle. Cedric was working for Fabio at Maestro in The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, and I encouraged Cedric to come work for Michel at Citronelle—we’ve been close friends ever since.
What is your favorite dish to cook for brunch?
Fried chicken and waffles with maple foam.
Do you prefer to brunch in or out?
I prefer to eat in brunch in a restaurant because then I don’t have to cook.
What brunch item do you have to order if it’s on the menu?
I definitely need to have a French pastry like croissants or pain au chocolate. I would order it with a cappuccino and then a simple Eggs Benedict.
What is your favorite item on Central’s brunch menu? What is the most-ordered item?
The crème brulee French toast is the one we sell the most. The pancrepes are also very popular. They are a mix of crepes and pancakes, so basically it’s the flavor of a French crepe with the texture of an American pancake.
Do you prefer Bloody Marys or mimosas?
I prefer a mimosa. At Central, we use fresh squeezed orange with sparkling wine, lemon juice, and Grand Marnier.
If you had to invite a group of local celebrities to brunch, who would they be?
I would invite Cedric Maupillier (Mintwood Place), Robert Wiedmaier (BRABO, Brasserie Beck, Marcel’s, Mussel Bar and Grille, Wildwood Kitchen), Roberto Donna (Al Dente, Alba Osteria), Eric Ziebold (formerly of CityZen with two restaurants headed to Shaw), Claudio Pirollo (Et Voila), and Bart Vandaele (B Too, Belga Café).
Michel Richard is a D.C. institution. What are the most important things he taught you?
He taught me to never be satisfied. I’ve been working for him for 14 years and what I’ve learned is we constantly work on our recipes. We never stop because we always become more perfect all the time. We are never satisfied with our recipes and we improve all the time. The only way to achieve that is to work a lot and never stop reading and being curious.
We know the French are wine experts. What wine pairing advice do you have for beginners? What are some of your favorite pairings with your menu items?
Definitely some light reds from Burgundy with some of our menu items. I like a Pinot Noir Les Argilliers from St. Aubin in France with steak and eggs.
Central has been open for many years but remains a favorite. What is your secret for innovating to stay current, especially with so many new restaurants opening?
I would say our secret is working hard and being curious. It’s also important to go see what other people are doing and try to do something different. I’m always reading a lot of books, too.
Diners rave about the fried chicken at Central? Can you reveal any secrets about your process?
No. You must come try it.
Central is doing a “Citronelle at Central” event on New Year’s Eve. What Citronelle favorites can we expect to see?
I was the executive chef of Citronelle for 10 years, so I’m going to have some favorite dishes from there. We picked a menu of five courses with some classics like the foie gras duo. At Citronelle, we had a foie gras terrine for a long time and we had a seared foie gras in the winter, so what I decided was to do a tasting of both. We’ll also have the lobster porcupine and the snowball from Citronelle, which we did every year for Christmas.
BitchBiz: Bitches Who Brunch partners with Central. While this article was written independently by Bitches Who Brunch, we do receive compensation from the company.