Seasonal Pantry has become a powerhouse on the Shaw scene. Co-founded by Ali Bagheri and Dan O’Brien (who are also behind SUNdeVICH and A&D), the market/communal table hybrid is now one of DC’s most sought-after food experiences. Every Wednesday to Saturday night, 12 diners come into Seasonal Pantry and enjoy Supper Club. This multi-course extravaganza is prepared by Chef O’Brien and his team, who create an ever-changing menu and experience that breaks down the traditional barriers between chefs and diners.
We spoke with O’Brien about his Seasonal Pantry experiences, what he envisions for the future, and his advice for those wanting to incorporate local, seasonal ingredients into their own cooking.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced when Seasonal Pantry first started out?
A: Learning how to open and create a business that was food driven. The pressure of creating good food and staying on top of my cooking game with limited resources, i.e. limited space and limited refrigeration, etc. To this day, we still cook of two induction burners and a pancake griddle.
Q: How does DC inspire your work?
A: With the growth of local business, it shows there is a demand for it from the people of DC. Having Seasonal Pantry, I’m able to see the unique shopping habits of people and see that they like to expand their own cooking and have an outlet for it. Our regulars are awesome and come in on a weekly basis to grab ingredients and talk about what they should make for their dinner that week.
Q: What has been your most memorable experience at Seasonal Pantry so far?
A: There was a 79 or 80 year old gentleman that came and ate for Supper Club. His birthday was coming up and his wife called to book the entire table. They could have gone anywhere in the city, but chose to come to Seasonal Pantry and their reason was because they wanted to be surrounded by good food and good people.
I’ve also liked having children come in and dine with their parents. Just seeing the young and old together is touching cause it brings me back to cooking for my family. It’s supplying kids with an art form that they might not be familiar with by breaking the barriers in a way cause they rarely dine with the chef right in front of them serving them their dinner.
Q: What advice would you give to people in DC who are looking to incorporate more local, seasonal ingredients into their cooking?
A: I think it should be something that you should want to do naturally. You’re supporting your city and the people that produce agricultural goods in this region. Just getting back to the basics by buying local, hopefully you’re cooking at home on a weekly basis. It is a great foundation to build community, either at home with family or with friends. At the age of 14, my job was to cook dinner for my mom, dad and brother. I think the structure of eating with my family gave me some discipline.
Q: What’s next?
A: We are enjoying our time at Seasonal Pantry, but are always looking for new opportunities to work with other entrepreneurs. We’d like to expand and possibly open a bigger restaurant without losing the intimacy and finesse that Seasonal Pantry brings. We hope to do this by 2015-2016.
Seasonal Pantry is located at 1314 1/2 9th Street NW in Washington, DC.