Copper pots hang on a rack over a large kitchen island, where the man in the chef’s jacket has started painting white plates with crimson streaks of reduced beet juice, one component of the evening’s salad course. Farther down the marble island, the amuse-bouche is already set to go: Eggshells, their tops expertly removed, are filled with an egg custard crowned with poached lobster meat.
There’s a new guilty pleasure in town. It’s called the New Yorker, and it’s lust at first bite.
Everything about the breakfast sandwich is more fun than oatmeal with skim milk and bananas: slices of tender, pungently pickled pastrami; an egg fried just so; melted, nutty-tasting Comte cheese for bonding; a sea salt-sprinkled bun that manages the neat trick of being both soft and sturdy, so that when you chomp down, the pierced yolk soaks into the roll rather than your fingers. Pepper jelly sticks it to the tongue with some heat.
"What I love about the DC food scene over New York's is the sense of ownership people have in their restaurant and level of pride you see in everyone from the bartenders to the cooks to the chef. People really invest themselves here in one place, whereas in New York they tend to bounce around. It really shows in the food and experience. NYC can feel a little impersonal and cold." -- Marjorie Meek-Bradley, executive chef, Ripple, Roofers Union, and Smoked & Stacked
To accompany our eighth annual Best Of issue, we asked the people who are making D.C. great to tell us their favorite things about This Town. They shared the kind of D.C. day they dream about, where the weather is perfect, the farmers market is always open and the museums are free (-er than normal, that is).
With a "Top Chef" alum at the helm and an Instagram account full of food pictures that can induce a Pavlovian response, Smoked and Stacked has met the hype: On opening day, the restaurant moved about 200 pastrami sandwiches and sold out of the smoked meat by 2:30 p.m.
Marjorie Meek-Bradley, who helms Ripple in Cleveland Park, is among those a little bewildered by a description. Google describes her restaurant as a “[c]olorful haunt with an inventive, seasonal New American menu & artisan cocktails in a comfy setting.” She characterizes her food as Northern California inspired by Mediterranean flavors and seasonal ingredients. “To me that’s how I cook, but it’s a mouthful.”
Peter Bayne called his partners in Smoked & Stacked as soon as he got the bad news. The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs had determined that their sandwich shop, featuring smoked meats by former “Top Chef” contestant Marjorie Meek-Bradley, qualified as a fast-food restaurant and that their location — on the Ninth Street NW side of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — is not zoned for fast food.
Greenberg’s leisurely path to victory isn’t all that unusual. Marjorie Meek-Bradley, executive chef of both Ripple and Roofers Union in D.C., with a fast-casual pastrami place coming soon, made it to the finals this year onTop Chef Season 13. But she first auditioned three seasons earlier, back in 2012.
For Marjorie Meek-Bradley, chef at Ripple in Washington, D.C., this meant dressing up the classic New York combo of lox and cream cheese. Late dinner shifts and missed meals have led to a deepened relationship with the bodega special: "When I worked in New York, it was the only meal I'd eat at least two or three times a week," she says.
Meek-Bradley holds it down for the ladies. She was the only female finalist on this year's Top Chef, and at Ripple, her kitchen team is almost all female. Like so many powerful women, she's had to deal with people calling her bitchy, but being tough has paid off. Case in point: After showing up at Napa Valley's prestigious The French Laundry earlier in her career, asking to see the chef, and politely refusing to take no for an answer, she got a tryout and won a job on the spot. Her advice for aspiring chefs: "If you want something, go ask for it. Go to that kitchen door with résumé in hand.
Cooking is one of those life skills that never stops giving. There’s always a new dish to master, a new ingredient to try, or a new chef to learn some handy tips from. Speaking of chefs, there’s one in particular who has all of our attention, and her name is Marjorie Meek-Bradley. If she sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen her before on Bravo’s Top Chef! Marjorie competed in Season 13, and went all the way to the final four contestants. That’s just one of her many accomplishments, as Marjorie has been cooking in professional kitchens since the age of 18
Another season of “Top Chef,” another D.C. contestant coming this close to the grand prize. Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple and Roofers Union made it to the penultimate episode of the show before being eliminated due to some tricky liquid nitrogen and duck a l’orange. Her new sandwich shop, Smoked & Stacked, opens at the end of April.
D.C. chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley had at least two things you look for in a successful Top Chef contestant going into the show's 13th season: She works in a couple of successful restaurants (Ripple and Roofers Union), and she had a pedigreed link to the show (she had worked for Top Chef: All-Stars runner-up Mike Isabella)
If you haven’t been keeping up with “Top Chef” this season, now would be the time to tune in — and to root for the home team. Marjorie Meek-Bradley, chef at Ripple and Roofers Union, earned a spot last night in the two-part “Top Chef” finale with her dish, a roasted lamb saddle with artichokes and oven-roasted tomato with marinated squash.
Reasonable people generally don’t fare well on reality TV. The genre feeds on pettiness, overreaction and “I’m not here to make friends.” But fans of “Top Chef” had good reason to root for the home team this season: D.C. chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley. She might not command as much screen time as boastful Philip, or frazzled (and now eliminated) Giselle, but with two wins under her belt and no major missteps, as of press time she was on track to be the most successful chef our city has sent to the show since Mike Isabella’s second-place finish in “All Stars.” And because her television persona is hardworking and pleasant, she’s the kind of person you want to root for, too.