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Bitch at Us: Chef Ype of Silver

Washington, DC
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We love a spot that serves brunch seven days a week. All the better if it also offers boozy milkshakes, Bitches!

We’ve loved spending time at Silver, the upscale cousin of Silver Diner, the Washington area’s most popular diner chain. (Read our brunch review and happy hour preview.) Both restaurants source from more than a dozen local farms and offer high quality cuisine at affordable prices, with all your diner favorites: pancakes, chicken pot pie, and milkshakes.

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With Silver, which is located on Bethesda Row, the restaurant group took a departure from the diner norm, creating a beautiful, upscale restaurant that’s still comfortable enough for family dinners, work breakfasts, and happy hour with friends.

There’s something for everyone whether you want a great bar scene, a family-night fixture, or a go-to late night spot. As for us, we’ve said it once we’ve said it again: the happy hour deals and the brunch can’t be beat.

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We sat down with the executive chef and co-founder of Silver and Silver Diner, Chef Ype Von Hengst. The Silver brand offers delicious and high-quality food at an affordable price. There’s something for everyone whether you want a great bar scene, a family-night fixture, or your go-to late night spot. See what he has to say about how the brand evolved and where his inspiration comes from.

What’s the story behind Silver and Silver Diner?

I wanted to create a concept where families would like to go and hang out. Twenty-five years ago you only had places like Denny’s, Friday’s, and Chili’s. I wanted to recreate the diner experience that was always a place for families, but comfortable for everyone. We took all the elements that people liked and made it better.

Tell me how Silver evolved and in turn, how did Silver Diner come about? What’s the difference between the two?

We enhanced the Silver Diner concept with a lot of local, fresh, farm-to-table, vegan, and gluten-free options which has really taken off all over in the last six years. That made us think about Silver—we wanted less “neon” with a smaller foot print, but more upscale with a bar. Not something totally new, but simply a brand extension.

Both concepts are family friendly. The bar and look of Silver appeals very much to millennial-aged diners, but also welcomes families.

The average check at Silver Diner is about $15 and about $25 at Silver. It’s very approachable for everyone because of the awesome small bites and great cocktails.

You partner with a lot of local food sources at Silver. Is that something you’re passionate about?

I am very passionate about local food. It tastes so much fresher and better and it supports the local economy as well—good for everyone! The economy wins, the guests win, and the chefs win—win, win, win!

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Where does your inspiration come from when designing your dishes?

My inspiration comes from travelling to other cities, as well as other local restaurants, trade magazines, and other trends. Food is like fashion: it constantly needs updating. The core might stay the same, but the spices, herbs, and flavor profiles constantly need updating.

I don’t believe in that saying “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” I believe if it’s not broken, how can we make it even better?

You grew up in the Netherlands, correct? Tell us about that and how it influences your cooking and school of thought about food.

Growing up in Holland and growing up with food that we like to now call organic was very fortunate. We picked up fresh milk everyday from the farm straight from the cow. My dad grew all the vegetables and fresh fruit, like strawberries, in the summer. Nothing was modified. What great flavors!

Rumor has it that you discovered your love for food at seven years old. What happened?

When I was small, my mom let me prepare the Sunday dinners. She was a great cook. I learned from her and she learned from her mom. She made amazing stews, soups, roasts, chickens, and more. That was it for me. That was the beginning of my career.

What do you think is the biggest difference between European and American cuisine?

There used to be a big difference between American and European cooking, but it is more similar now. The flavor profiles will always be unique to the region or country though. Pasta will always be a part of Italy and BBQ always will be part of the South.

The ingredients in the United States are much better now. They are fresher, cleaner, more organic, and there are more non-GMO options. That has always been more the norm in Europe. These trends are starting to grow here now rapidly, thank god, we need it for many health reasons.

Tell us about the late night options at Silver.

I created late night skillets and lots of breakfast options. When you go out late, you want hearty food. I also kept the prices in mind because affordable options during late night are important.

Tell us about the happy hour at Silver.

Same for happy hour! We have a selection of small bites that are the same portion we offer on the regular menu, just less expensive for a few hours between 4-7 p.m.

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Tell us a little about the community aspect of your restaurants.

Through our Eat Well, Do Well (EWDW) program, we have given more than a half a million dollars back over the last six years. This program has helped over 150 schools since 2010 and we have contributed over $650,000 to these school to help grow healthier children’s programs. We love doing “Run the Diner” fundraisers because they are a fun event where parents, students, and faculty can help raise money for their schools. It is important to us to give back to the community.

What made you go from chef to restaurant owner/founder? Which do you like better?

I love being a restaurant owner. It allows me to be a chef, but at the same time create great opportunities for my associates, my managers, and my guests. What I love most in life and have as much of a passion for as I do for food is seeing people around me grow in their careers. All of our general managers were either once a kitchen manager, server, host, busboy, or prep cook! That is very rewarding for me.

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What’s your favorite meal on the menu?

One of my favorite meals on the menu is our hanger steak with chimichurri sauce, fresh spinach, and mashed cauliflower.

Bloody Marys or mimosas?

For me it’s mimosas. I never cared much for tomato flavors in drinks.

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Brunch in or out?

Brunch in is a great time for family to get together and spend quality time with one another. However, Silver has the best selection of breakfast food like pancakes, French toast, Benedicts, omelets, and our famous huevos rancheros! There’s also great cocktails, great coffee, and the best service.

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Favorite dish to cook (and eat) for brunch?

My favorite dish is definitely our bison huevos rancheros!

If you had to invite five people to brunch, who would they be? (Dead or alive—anyone!)

My five people would be Joseph Stalin, Nelson Mandela, Mick Jagger, Wayne Dyer, and Paul Bocuse. Stalin was a bad dude. But if you read his life history you’ll see his tenacity, willpower, and energy. Those are trades to admire. Mandela because it is so amazing how he forgives his biggest enemies for what they have done to him. What a big person! Jagger because half a century later and he’s still as popular as day one. He’s constantly adapting and super creative. Dyer because he says to be kind and good to others which can make a big difference at times. Paul Bocuse for his craft and understanding of food.

 

Bitch Biz: Silver and Bitches Who Brunch are partners. While this article was written independently by Bitches Who Brunch, we do receive compensation from the company.

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