by Brandon Fox
David Dunlap left the Ashby Inn in Paris, Virginia, at the end of the summer to begin preparations for Maple & Pine, Quirk Hotel’s soon-to-open restaurant. Dunlap grew up in the Northwest and went to California Culinary Academy. And thus began an illustrious career.
After time in California kitchens, he worked under executive chef Julian Jouhannud at Alain Ducasse's Adour restaurant in Washington, D.C. After a stop at Plume Restaurant, he became Patrick O’Connell’s executive sous chef at the Inn at Little Washington. Now in Richmond, Dunlap is putting things such as grilled pork shoulder with kimchi or almond-crusted lamb with pickled blueberries and lavender hummus on the menu when Maple & Pine opens Sept. 17.
I gave him a call while he was busy getting ready at the West Broad Street spot to find out a little more about the newest player in Richmond’s dining scene.
Style: The Ashby Inn is in such a lovely rural setting. Has it been hard to leave?
Dunlap:Honestly, I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t had time to miss anything.
What or who’s been your biggest culinary influence as you’ve grown as a chef?
That’s a tough question. As far as chefs go, it’s a toss-up. I would probably say Patrick [O’Connell] was a huge influence on me — as far as how to properly run a five-star kitchen. And as far as details go, he’s extremely detail-oriented. Running his kitchen, I had to be extremely detail-oriented as well. And my purveyors — you know, they inspire me too. [There were] a lot of people, especially at the Ashby, just popping in, with different products. Seasons — seasonality — inspires me.
How is Maple & Pine going to stand out? Are you thinking about the rest of the restaurants in Richmond while you’re putting your menu together?
I’m not saying all restaurants in Richmond are Southern food-focused, but a good majority of them are. That’s not me as a chef. I’ll go with more worldly flavors. I use a lot of curries, whether it’s a Thai curry or an Indian curry. [I gather] influences from all around the world — but using local products and adding them into my dishes in unexpected ways.
What are you excited about that Richmond has that hasn’t really been somewhere else?
I’m excited to be back in a city. Richmond just has a great food scene. People are interested in food. There’re a lot of great chefs, a lot of good competition around here.