Why We Love Jeremiah Langhorne
Jeremiah cooks at the whim of his ingredients—often taking cues often from what he foraged that day. “When you create a dish that way,” he says, “it has no choice but to be representative of the region that you’re in.”
“When you’re a chef, especially when you’re a restaurateur, you have to know about so much more than just cooking great food.”
“I chose D.C. for its geographical location primarily, and for the history. Until recently, I don’t think anyone really realized how unique D.C.’s geographic location is.”
How did learning that cooking was more than just recipes shift your perspective?
I mean, it completely opened an entire new world to me. For whatever reason—probably because I was a 15-year-old kid—I just thought that when people cooked, they followed a recipe, and it was just that simple. But the idea that anybody anywhere could have the ability to have the creativity and to explore whatever ideas they had was really amazing to me, and hooked me into it all really quickly.
Out of everywhere you’ve cooked, why settle in D.C.?
I think a big part of the reason I love D.C. so much is because the city itself—architecturally and the layout—feels very European to me. It’s a very vibrant, bright, green city. It’s walkable; the size is great. It allows you to do everything you’d want to do in a big city without being overwhelmed. But the biggest piece is the connection to this region and history. You know, D.C.’s at the meeting point of Virginia, Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, and there’s a lot of really wonderful food history from this region I wanted to explore, having been born here and wanting to dig deeper.
How does the uniqueness of the region translate to great food?
We have a philosophy that goes for the entire restaurant. It’s that if we create a pantry for the restaurant from this region, then our cuisine has no choice but to reflect this land and this area. So, it’s basically a way to really stick to our mandate, showcase this beautiful place we live in and kind of give all our diners a glimpse of what we have to offer. Which is another reason I wanted to come to D.C., because I thought nobody was really highlighting what we have here.
Is there a dish you think best represents The Dabney?
Of course! We have a dish called Hearth-Roasted Vegetables. It’s the only dish that’s been on the menu since the beginning. It changes all the time, but also stays the same. The idea is that whatever vegetables are in season at the moment are all carefully broken down and treated in a way that they can all come together. They’re cooked over embers in a hearth until they’re charred perfectly, then we plate and dress them with sometimes raw, pickled versions of themselves and then cover it with whatever herbs are in season. The concept is always the same, but the dish itself is always a little different. You have these things coming and going. In the springtime, that dish is very reflective of the spring with things like asparagus, peas, miner’s lettuce, but in the summertime, you have eggplant, peppers, corn and tomatoes. So, totally different ingredients, but the idea is the same.
Do you have an MVP All-Star version of that dish?
Yeah, definitely, I think just getting into the beginning of summer is when it’s at its best. When you first start to see corn and peppers and stuff like that, but you still have that late spring produce, that’s when it’s really at its height, I think.
What’s the balance between creating a dish that’s hyper local yet accessible?
We have kind of a saying at the restaurant, and I think it’s served us really well. We want all our food to be accessible, whether you’re a construction worker or a three-Michelin-star food critic. It doesn’t really matter where the person’s coming from, we want the dish to have appeal to everyone. Number one, we make sure the dish is just delicious. Often it’s easy to get excited about an idea or technique, and you lose sight of the fact that 95-percent of the public has no idea what that is, or really cares. So, we make sure we have that level of deliciousness for everyone. And two, we try to relate our food to trigger someone’s memory, or give them some frame of reference for what they’re eating. Even if the current iteration might not look like something the know, we’ll give some example or frame of reference for what they’re eating. I think it’s very important to have that kind of connection so people eat it and say ‘Oh, I get it!’
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