When DC Prime owners Mark Craig, Kevin Cox and Rick Crowe were looking to open a high-end steakhouse in Ashburn, they recruited Brad Weideman, a well-known Atlanta chef with a long history in upscale steakhouses, to run the kitchen. The 35-year-old chef moved to Ashburn last year with wife, Bekah, and their children, ages 10 and 14, to open the restaurant last July. Weideman talked with Loudoun Now about what makes a great steak and why Loudoun was the right spot for the restaurant.
Loudoun Now: How would you describe the DC Prime philosophy?
Brad Weideman: We’re all about high quality ingredients—whether it’s for cocktails or for food—and great service. You get the white tablecloth service, but it’s a little bit of a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s where you can have great service and great food but it’s not a stuffy environment.
LN: Are you going for the feel of a restaurant that you would see in the District or New York?
BW: We feel like we can rival any other steakhouse in this area. We source the highest quality ingredients—whether it be from local farms at the farmers market or going to the farm myself or flying in fish every few days from Hawaii just to have the highest quality fish in the world. We took a long time figuring out exactly what our specs were on our steaks and we found one specific farm in Iowa that had the best beef for what we were looking for. We source all of our steaks from one single farm in Iowa…You won’t find a higher quality steak anywhere…And it’s an easier drive for people…We’re right there in the back yard.
LN: What has the response been like from the community?
BW: It’s been a great experience. Everyone that comes here loves it. People love seeing me out and about shopping at the farmers market. … I hear comments all the time that I buy stuff from the same places, the same farms that they do. It’s been a really positive experience for everyone.
LN: How did the owners find you?
BW: I used to work with our operating partner Rick Crowe in Atlanta. He was the operating partner there and I was a sous chef. We worked together for a few years and we’ve always kept in touch. He called me up and said “Do you want to be a part of it?” I talked to my wife and called him back and said “Yeah, absolutely.” I sold my house in Georgia and moved my wife and kids to the area just over a year ago.
LN: Tell me about your background and your training?
BW: I graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta with my culinary arts degree in December of 1999. From there, I went to a restaurant in Buckhead, which is a very affluent area of Atlanta—the Buckhead Diner, which was an extremely popular spot. … It was a scratch kitchen so it was a great experience. I started working in kitchens in 1997 and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve done a lot of steakhouses—that’s my passion. I was at McKendrick’s Steakhouse in Atlanta, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the Capital Grille. Then got promoted, which brought me back to Atlanta. I was the executive chef at the Capital Grille in Buckhead—that was 11 years in high-end steakhouses before DC Prime. I did a stint at Rosa Mexicano, and Legal Sea Foods was my most recent job. So I’ve worked in a lot of higher end places—from seafood to steak to Mexican.
LN: What do you feel makes a good steak?
BW: The biggest thing we were looking for when we were searching out our steaks was consistency, for one, tenderness and marbling. We use all prime steaks and consistency is key. Every time you get a rib eye, it’s going to be consistent. It’s going to be tender, flavorful, and will have the perfect amount of marbling. The other thing is how we cook them. We cook them on a high heat broiler that gets at least 1,100 degrees so you get a nice sear, a nice char on the exterior but it’s going to be very juicy and tender on the interior. It’s not something that you could do at home.
LN: Did you have a cooking influence growing up?
BW: On the weekends, my father and I would always watch PBS—Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Martin Yan, Paul Prudhomme. I started trying to imitate them and started making stuff at home. That’s how it started. I just fell in love with food at that point. Before I started my senior year in high school, I was already accepted at the Art Institute. I knew at that point that this was what I was going to do. It was a really easy transition. … My first job started out as a line cook and within a few months I was the lead line cook and had all these responsibilities. I guess you could say I’m a natural at it. I love food and I love making people happy by the food I produce.
LN: Are your kids into cooking? Do you cook at home?
BW: My wife is spoiled; my kids are spoiled. Whenever I’m home I try to do the cooking. I try to teach my kids the basics right now—knife skills and sautéing and things like that. They’re very interested. They want to help out as much as possible. I don’t know if I’d want them to go into it [professionally] but I want them to know how to cook.
LN: Do you have any favorites when you’re cooking at home?
BW: We’re big seafood people at home. Of course, we love great steaks but we’re big seafood fanatics. We’re always going to Whole Foods and seeing what’s fresh, what’s great and we do that. Or we’ll go out for sushi every once in a while.
LN: Do you have tips for home cooks?
BW: One thing that comes to mind is I know when I was starting out, it seemed like there were a lot of rules about cooking. You can’t put this with that, you can’t do this and that. Where I am now, that’s just a lie. You can put cheese with seafood and it can be okay. What I would tell people is if there’s stuff that you love, put it together and make a dish out of it and as long as you don’t burn it, you’ll like it. And simplicity. A lot of times people, even chefs, can get too fancy and you’ll have a dish that has 15 ingredients but you can only taste four ingredients. Keep it simple—that’s the big thing in the culinary world nowadays and it really works. Keep it fresh, keep it simple, and use ingredients that you love and it will all work out.
LN: You mentioned the craft cocktails—are you involved with that? What’s the steakhouse/cocktail relationship?
BW: We have a bar manager, Chelsea McGaha, and she helps come up with cocktails. We’re featuring a cocktail right now, the Georgia Mule, where we’re using fresh peaches, fresh ginger and some ginger beer—peaches that I buy right here at the market. I’ve done a Bloody Mary before. I’ve done a bourbon cocktail. … I like to get my hands dirty with the drinks. Rick Crowe, the operating partner, also owns a bourbon bar in Columbia, South Carolina, so we’re kind of a bourbon-centric bar, which is great because there are not a lot of places around here that have a lot of great bourbons. We talk a lot about pairings and do tastings to make sure that the cocktails will go great with the steak and with the fish.
DC Prime, at 20120 Lakeview Center Plaza in Ashburn, marks its first anniversary with a celebration Saturday, Aug. 20. For details, go to dcprimesteaks.com.