After nearly two decades in the kitchens of the region’s best restaurants (and two Loudoun favorites), Chris Edwards wanted more: more flexibility, more creative control and more time with his young family.
Last fall, Edwards took a leap and launched an innovative model that combines high-end catering and culinary education. And like many young chefs breaking into mobile cooking, his approach relies heavily on Loudoun’s booming winery and brewery scene.
“I decided to do what every chef dreams of in starting their own business,” said Edwards, who left his post as chef de cuisine at Middleburg’s Salamander Resort & Spa to go out on his own. Before that, Edwards ran the kitchen at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm near Lovettsville.
In November, Edwards opened a small catering company with a focus on what he calls “culinary experiences,” which combine elements of a cooking class with private chef services. Edwards offers interactive cooking classes, followed by a meal, to private clients and winery guests. He also specializes in “pop-up” dinners and food truck sales at local wineries.
“Every time I speak to the winemakers and the owners, they always are looking for content for their members. … They have loyal memberships and great facilities and properties,” Edwards said.
Throughout February, Edwards has operated the food-truck in residence at the sprawling Stone Tower Winery south of Leesburg. He’s scheduled to do a pop-up dinner at Tarara Winery March 24 and is in talks with Breaux Vineyards about offering instructional dinners at their northern Loudoun property.
Without a commercial kitchen as a base, Edwards has found the perfect solution at Chefscape, a shared commercial kitchen in Ashburn—used by chefs and caterers from around the region. At Stone Tower, Edwards cooks out of the Chefscape food truck in a joint venture with Chefscape owner Rob Batchelder.
“It sounded too fun to turn down.” Edwards said of the food truck adventure. “People love to come to the wineries and share. … They want nice, snackable type food.”
Edwards, who describes his cuisine as “local food with a global influence” offers winery visitors upscale twists on comfort food. His homemade deviled eggs, made with farm fresh local eggs and garnished with bacon, have been a hit. And last weekend, he served a Super Bowl-inspired snack crostini with bleu cheese spread and Buffalo pulled chicken. The menu for the Tarara dinner is a little fancier, including asparagus with a local egg “mimosa” and pickle-brined chicken from Purcellville’s Yohanan Farm.
Growing up in Woodbridge, Edwards, now 40, initially dreamed of becoming an architect.
“I got into ninth grade and realized I’m not that good at math,” he said with a laugh.
Edwards got into the restaurant business as a teen, working at Chuck E. Cheese and Red Robin to earn some extra cash. But it wasn’t until the end of high school that he found his calling when a friend’s father gave him a copy of the classic 1995 guide “Becoming A Chef.”
Edwards applied to the culinary program at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, SC. He graduated in 2000 and scored a sought-after post at the famed El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona in Spain. When he returned to the DC area, Edwards worked under noted chef Fabbio Trabocchi at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner and then helped his mentor, chef Duane Keller, open the Moon Bay restaurant at the Gaylord Hotel at Maryland’s National Harbor.
In 2009, Edwards was snagged by Patowmack Farm owner Beverly Morton Billand and spent years running the small kitchen at the innovative farm to table restaurant. He was hired as second in command at Salamander Resort in 2013.
But after years under the typical grueling schedule of a traditional chef’s post, Edwards decided it was time to shift gears. He’s looking to keep the catering business small, with a focus on finding a niche on the local winery scene. And spending more time with his wife and two sons, now 5 and 18 months, was part of the decision.
“[Chefs] love what we do, but we love what we do to a fault sometimes,” he said. “We want some life balance.”
Chris Edwards and the Chefscape food truck will be at Stone Tower Winery 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26. Edwards will be the featured chef at a Spring Fling pop-up dinner at Tarara Winery Friday, March 24. $150 tickets include a five-course meal and wine pairings by winemaker Jordan Harris. Reservations can be made by calling the winery at 703-771-7100.
For more information about Edwards’ upcoming dinners and classes, go to chefchrisedwards.com.