WASHINGTON — Erik Bruner-Yang has been at the forefront of D.C.’s culinary scene since he opened his pint-sized H Street ramen shop Toki Underground in 2011.
Since then, the 32-year-old chef has launched a number of concepts, including Maketto, Honeycomb Grocer and Paper Horse, a Whole Foods ramen stand — all while collecting two James Beard Award nominations. In April, he’ll debut his latest eatery at the forthcoming The Line hotel in Adams Morgan.
To say Bruner-Yang is busy is an understatement. But this weekend, foodies will be able to get a slice of his time at the annual MetroCooking DC show. Along with other notable chefs, including Tom Colicchio and Jacques Pepin, Bruner-Yang will take the stage to field questions and demo one of his favorite recipes, prahok ktis.
“Typically when I do the demos, I like to do a cuisine that most people aren’t familiar with,” Bruner-Yang said.
The traditional Cambodian dish requires just three ingredients — fresh curry paste, ground pork and “a touch of coconut milk.” And best of all, Bruner-Yang says it’s easy to replicate at home.
Popularizing Asian cuisine is fundamental for Bruner-Yang, who was born in Taiwan and grew up in Woodbridge, Virginia — and so far, he has succeeded.
Many credit Toki Underground with igniting D.C.’s love affair with ramen. Maketto, a mixed retail/cafe/restaurant concept, presents Cambodian and Taiwanese cooking in an unrivaled way. Where else can one devour pan-seared leek buns and Taiwanese-style fried chicken alongside a curated collection of clothing and footwear?
“My overall goal and my culinary perspective is that chefs like Tom [Cunanan, co-owner and chef at D.C.’s Bad Saint] or chefs like me, we’re speaking to a new genre of American cooking,” Bruner-Yang said.
“When people think of American cooking they think of burgers and fries and chili and hot dogs and stuff like that, or Southern food, which is probably the most classically American kind of cooking — but Asians have been in America … almost as long as part of the original settlement, so I think Asian food is a big part of the American history, and so I think we’re kind of carrying that torch.”
As for what taste buds can expect from his new spot at The Line, set to open in 2017, Bruner-Yang’s answer is a given: “Delicious.”
The plans are not top-secret; he’s still just figuring things out, he says.
Bruner-Yang takes the James Beard Cooking Stage at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4 at MetroCooking DC. You can find the full schedule of events and ticket information at metrocookingdc.com.
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