For the Newark native, Brian McBride, his dad had one simple
rule: his sons needed to learn about responsibility and that
came with working, beginning with a summer job at age 14.
Smart man, because it kept him out of trouble. Young Brian
landed in a restaurant washing dishes, the life stuck, and he rose
right to the top of the Washington culinary scene.
His first step toward making the after-school gig a professional
reality was heading off to Providence for an intensive
12-month program at Johnson & Wales. It opened up a whole
world of cuisine for McBride, who realized that this was a job he
could do for 100 years - and still be learning. Sure enough,
a third of a century later, he still is.
Right out of school, McBride landed a job
in Cambridge at the Empress Room at the Hyatt, then at
the cutting edge of the hot trend that became known as Asian
Fusion. After a while, his career with Hyatt brought him
to London, where for six months he was immersed in the world
of traditional French cuisine at CarltonTowers. A brief
break from Hyatt found him working
in Cuernavaca, Mexico at Las Mañanitas, a Relais
& Châteaux property, creating authentic Mexican cuisine; for
three years afterward, McBride remained on board as a consulting
Returning to the Hyatt, he opened The Park Hyatt Washington, DC
in 1986 - and stayed on for 26 years, the last 20 of which he
served as executive chef, overseeing food service throughout the
hotel. Melrose, the hotel's signature fine dining restaurant,
became a Washingtoninstitution, renowned for its nouvelle
cuisine and the Asian fusion menu that McBride developed from
his experience at the Empress Room. After nineteen years, he
created the celebrated Blue Duck Tavern that
took Washington by storm. Its down-to-earth
dedication to farm-freshness and time-honored techniques in an
atmosphere of elegant simplicity earned McBride top accolades and a
reservation list a mile long.
For over the course of all those years, he formed a close bond
with fellow chef Robert Wiedmaier, whose career paralleled his own
in the Washington hotel world before Wiedmaier opened Marcel's, the
#1 restaurant in town, according to Zagat. The friendly
rivalry between Marcel's and Blue Duck Tavern for top spot melted
away in 2011, when the two friends decided to become partners.
For McBride, being released from the demanding administration
of multiple hotel outlets means a long-awaited opportunity to
concentrate on cuisine. For Wiedmaier, it means a partner
with exceedingly high organizational skills, who shares his
commitment to traditional culinary values.
McBride joins Wiedmaier as Partner-Chef, with an immediate focus
on re-establishing the strong brasserie presence of Brasserie
Beck. Revising the menu with all the dedication to integrity
of ingredients and technique for which he was known at Blue Duck
Tavern, he is all about getting back to 'real food.' "It
means taking farm fresh local product, and treating it in a rustic,
rural, often time-consuming style of cooking. That's what
traditional Flemish cooking is all about - same approach, different
geography." Revealing a key addition to the menu, he
explains, "take a cassoulet: it takes an entire day to make it
right, and another day or two to reach optimum flavor."
Old-style French cuisine, he points out, is not so far from
old-style American cooking: how different are a
classic Pot-de-Feu and a Yankee pot roast, after
all? He is also bringing back the old fashioned plats du
jour system to build a loyal following for daily specials,
like a Monday Côte de Boeuf for two with au
gratin potatoes and squash purée with maple syrup.