Foodservice > Chef's Table
Some of Chef Brad Deboy’s earliest memories were watching his mom, a baker, work her magic in the bakery. “I remember being about 5 years old and playing with flour and sugar and stealing icing for a taste here and there,” Deboy recalls. “It was a fun place to mess around.”
That early kitchen immersion led to a fascination with food in general. Other early memories include his ongoing quest to re-create the perfect-looking food he saw on television commercials.
“This was my early practice at plating,” Deboy explains. “I was determined to make a cooked egg the same exact size as an English muffin, which I achieved by cooking it in a coffee mug with a paper towel over the top.”
His professional kitchen career started with dishwashing and being a “sandwich artist” at Subway. “Eventually, I ended up dishwashing in a kitchen where the chef didn’t show up,” Deboy says. “That’s when I really jumped in and learned on my feet.”
His largely self-taught, inventive style of cooking was developed as he bounced around kitchens that served French, Italian and Asian Fusion cuisines, among others. Working with Chef Gordon Ramsay and his partner, Angela Hartnett, accelerated his learning and led to his climb from line cook to executive chef at the Blue Duck Tavern, when the busy hotel restaurant earned its first Michelin star.
Now at Ellē, Chef Deboy, along with his friends and co-owners, Pastry Chef Lizzy Evelyn and Head Bread Baker Dan Fogg, have created a truly collaborative cafe, restaurant and bar in a space that also houses the group’s wholesale bakery, Paisley Fig. During the day, coffee, baked goods and sandwiches are served at a counter. Ellē, named number one in The Washington Post’s “Top 10 Restaurants to Eat in 2018,” transforms into a full-service restaurant, bar and bakery at night.
“We built the physical space together, designed and decorated it, and we take menu input from everyone back of house. Our environment is very important to us. We are in a tough business already, so we make sure our staff is treated well at work,” Deboy says.
At Ellē, the chef’s long-standing interest in fermentation has flourished, with Old World techniques combining with new world flavors.
“Fermenting developed out of a need to preserve food for winter and to prevent spoilage in hot weather,” Deboy says. “I love the idea of using some of the earliest techniques to create something new and different. Plus, fermentation is good for lower gut bacteria, and we keep learning more about how good this is for digestion. It also lowers food waste and creates some amazing flavors. All around, it’s just good for all of us.”