It's hard for chef-owner Tim Ma to take a step back from Maple Ave Restaurant , which he calls his "baby." But, effective February 15, that's what he did, a move necessary to free up some time as he plans to launch three new concepts over the next two years.
"D.C. scares me, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I've spent most of my life in Virginia, I'm comfortable in Virginia." He anticipates the new restaurant will open in 2016.
In the meantime, he has his hands full with a supper club and catering business he plans to launch next month, and his forthcoming sandwich shop, Chase the Submarine, which will open in early fall in Vienna, if construction stays on track.
The supper club, called Gather + Feast, will give fans of Maple Ave and Water & Wall a chance to have the chef cook in their own homes. Ma says he'll test dishes that may end up on future menus.
The catering service, which will be sold through a Kickstarter, seems like a pretty great deal, too: For $100 per person (with a minimum of eight people and a max of 12), Ma will come to your house and cook one of several pre-selected but customizable menus. He'll also include a server, all of the cookware and dishware, all of the ingredients except for alcohol, and he'll clean the kitchen, leaving it "the way it was -- or better," said Ma.
That was the case at a recent Sips and Suppers dinner at the home of Quinn Bradlee, son of Washington Post notables Sally Quinn and the late Ben Bradlee, who was left with a spotless kitchen once the meal was over.
"At the end of the meal, [Quinn Bradlee] was looking at the kitchen, and he was like, 'I've never seen it like this!'" said Ma.
Ma has already worked out a few themed menus for Gather + Feast. There's a duck-centric menu with plenty of foie gras, a surf and turf (but "not lobster and not filet mignon," he said), and an ode to New York vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy.
As he's rolling out the catering business, he's also approaching the launch of Chase the Submarine, a sandwich shop and butchery that is slated to open at 132 Church St. NW in Vienna. The restaurant is named after his two year old son, Chase, the middle of his three children.
"We feel like the middle child always gets screwed," said Ma, of he and his wife and business partner, Joey Hernandez. "Everything always goes to the oldest child, or everybody pays attention to the youngest child. So we're like, we’re going to name something after the middle child."
The small restaurant will also feature a whole-animal butcher shop, where people can special-order rare cuts of meat. It will offer counter service, but will serve beer and wine.
All of this necessitated Ma taking a step back. Two Maple Ave veterans have been promoted to run the restaurant: Juste Zidelyte will become executive chef, and Ricardo Teves will replace Hernandez as the general manager.
"I don’t want to be that guy who’s spread out super thin and is just showing up at these places, you know, just to touch a place," said Ma. "I want to be able to work in one of my spots, at least for the initial periods. You lose some authenticity when somebody’s spread out that thin."