In our perpetual quest to bring you the human side of culinary movers andshakers, we visited Restaurant Eve chef Cathal Armstrong and Founding Farmers' mastermind Dan Simons.
You probably already know that Cathal hails from Dublin, Ireland—especially if you’ve ever struck up a conversation with him, as a wisp of an accent still remains. But what else is up with Restaurant Eve's award-winning chef?
1. He has more than just a green thumb in the garden. He’s practically the Jolly Green Giant. He took us behind Restaurant Eve to snoop on his vivacious garden filled with night jasmine, African blue basil, lemon verbena, cauliflower, dinosaur kale, peaches, plums, and so much more.
2. Nutrition is of utmost importance to Cathal, so when he’s not in the kitchen or in this garden, you’ll find him on Capitol Hill fighting for or against measures impacting what’s on school cafeteria trays. “We’re in need of serious improvement; right now it’s okay for a recipe to be 35% sugar and pizza is being deemed a vegetable,” he tells us. Additionally, Cathal just served as a judge for the “Cooking up Change,” a culinary competition in which high school students prepare a meal within school lunch guidelines using only what’s available. Think you could make something delicious for $1?
3. He’s a Tae Kwon Do black belt. Yes, there are photos of him breaking boards with his bare hands. It’s all a part of the healthy lifestyle that helped him lose 50 pounds.
Dan Simons is principal at Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group (VSAG). If this doesn’t ring any bells, we’re willing to bet you’ve dined at Founding Farmers or Farmers Fishers Bakers. Dan spearheaded the development of these iconic area restaurants, and we caught up with him at the Potomac, MD location.
1. Dan teaches at his alma mater—The George Washington University. He founded the university’s Scholarship for Sustainable Hospitality. He’s the perfect man for the job, as few have tried to run high-volume restaurants so responsibly including being the first LEED Gold certified upscale, full-service restaurant in the country.
2. He doesn’t believe in children’s menus or big brand soda, so you won’t find them in his restaurants. Pop flavors like grapefruit and vanilla are made in house. Next up? Dan wants to figure out how to make cola.
3. His advice? “Never do business with [insert expletive of choice here]." It’s all about relationship building. "When you’re raising capital, wait for awesome investors, don’t just take what’s easy,” he tells us. Perhaps that’s why Founding Farmers has 11 farmers on the board in addition to having 190 farmers individually invested in the company.