New chef enjoys his work at Fauquier Hospital Bistro
“I really like talking to the people who are eating our food, to find out what they like and what they’d like to see on the menu,” says David Martin, who started in October as executive chef of Fauquier Hospital’s Bistro on the Hill.
By Robin Earl Fauquier Health
The new executive chef at Fauquier Hospital’s Bistro on the Hill has wide and varied experience – from fine dining at the Inn at Little Washington to food for thousands at James Madison University.
But David Martin keeps his approach refreshingly simple.
“What do you like to eat?” he’ll ask. “I’ll make it for you.”
When young and inexperienced, Mr. Martin decided he wanted to be a good cook.
“I wanted to cook things that people would want to eat. I wanted to be able to cook anything. If you want a hamburger, I want to make it the best burger I can. If people are going to come into my dining room and spend money, I want them to enjoy what they are eating.”
As The Bistro’s executive chef since October, he’s had time to put his stamp on the kitchen.
“I love it here,” Mr. Martin said. “It’s a family atmosphere; there are a lot of happy people, genuine, good people. It’s an atmosphere where we can create really good food.”
He believes the best meals are created from scratch, with fresh ingredients.
“The dishes that have been well-received so far have been comfort foods. Our mac and cheese is made with actual ingredients – cheddar, queso fresco, Swiss and gouda. But the secret is to add a little American. It makes it extra creamy. Our fries are hand-cut. Our chicken tenders are scratch made. Our salad dressings are made here every day, and our salad bar is stocked with fresh vegetables. And our meat loaf is crazy good. It’s whole food, with no preservatives. It’s real food, and it’s good for you.”
Mr. Martin gives cook Tim Turner kudos for his amazing soups.
“They are all from scratch – potato, French onion, chicken noodle and chili. He does a great job.”
The executive chef also recognizes the genius of Emily Taylor, the woman behind The Bistro’s bakery. “Baking is really chemistry. It’s a craft.”
Mr. Martin says his cooks know that technique matters.
“You have to know what you have. If you have a chuck roast, you don’t grill it. It’s best when it is slow cooked into pot roast. It’s important to take each ingredient, treat it with respect and know your flavor profiles.”
Dietary restrictions – from gluten-free to vegan — provide challenges.
“We try to give everyone choices, no matter what their restrictions. Our staff is very knowledgeable about the foods we serve.”
A graduate of the Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts in Providence, R.I., Mr. Martin spent a fair number of years in fine dining, including jobs at the Inn at Little Washington and Blue Rock Inn, both in Rappahannock County. But after a few years of grueling schedules and little time off, Mr. Martin decided he wanted to have a life and cook, too. He found contract dining, working as the general manager for the Smithsonian near Front Royal and at JMU as a sous chef and production manager. He was also the executive chef at St. Mary’s College in Maryland for a year.
“If the kids in the dining hall are helping themselves to cereal, they’re not liking what you are cooking,” he said of that learning experience.
He has settled at Fauquier Hospital, where he can cook good food, supervise an enthusiastic staff and see the results of his work.
“I really like talking to the people who are eating our food, to find out what they like and what they’d like to see on the menu.”
Mr. Martin has made it a point to chat with visitors at Fauquier Hospital’s Senior Supper Club twice a week – when his customers are not shy about giving their opinions.
“The Senior Supper Clubs are a great opportunity,” he said. “We are taking special care and putting a lot of thought into our menu. These folks are making a special effort to come here, we want to make them happy.”
He wants suggestions.
“You have to be open to it. That’s how you learn.”
“I want to make the time you spend in The Bistro a good part of your day.”