A Talk with Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto

Originally published via: Trends on Trends

There is a lot to like about Erik Bruner-Yang’s Maketto: pan-fried leek buns, frothy matcha lattes, elegant pastries. We liked it so much that we held#BreakfastClubDC in the design-focused multipurpose space.

Lauded as one of the best restaurants in Washington, D.C. and the United States, Maketto is more than just a ridiculously delicious menu: It’s shaping a new form of elevated fast casual dining and the function of restaurants going beyond just serving food.

What is your morning routine? I wake up when my daughter, Amara (17 months old), wakes up and then the whole family hangs out in bed until it is time to start getting ready for work. I usually leave the house around 10am. I don’t get home until very late in the evening after we close up the restaurants, so morning time is my family time. I do a stop through Honeycomb (my Asian grocery at Union Market), then Toki Underground (ramen shop), and eventually to Maketto, which is where I stay for the rest of the day. I am a shower-at-night kind of guy so it is really just procrastinate-as-long-as-possible-at-home until I have to leave. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch. Just coffee and tea all day until dinner time, whatever time that ends up being.

How does your ethnic and culinary background influence the type of food that is served at your restaurants? I only cook the food that I can understand the context of and that just happens to be Asian food because that is my cultural background. Maketto is influenced by my culture (Taiwanese) and my wife’s (Cambodian) and Toki Underground is a statement of what being Taiwanese American means to me.

Have you noticed any recent trends or movements that have helped shape DC’s culinary scene? It is great to see Asian chefs opening Asian restaurants and getting local and national recognition for it. The future of restaurants is second and third generation Asian Americans cooking the food of their cultural background the way they want to represent it now.

What is your perception of where dining in DC stands in relation to the rest of the US? Every city ebbs and flows where they are in the world of dining. We aren’t a very large city so I think the density of new restaurants is amazing. I love Washington DC and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

Maketto is made up a coffee shop/restaurant/boutique. What are the pros and cons of operating such a multi-purpose space and are there any other chefs you think are also doing this concept well? Maketto is a super complicated business model because it is all operating as one business. If we opened Maketto in another major city i.e Paris, Tokyo, LA, NYC, it would be a financial success. We are doing well and the reception has been amazing but we haven’t really hit our stride yet. We are the first, in my opinion, to do what Maketto is doing. Especially at the level that we are doing it at.

Maketto’s cafe can be considered a new form of convenience food, would you say this fast-casual, yet thoughtfully prepared culinary concept is something we can expect more of from you as well as other D.C. chefs? “Fast-Fine.” That is the new category I am inventing haha.

Interview by: Marisel Salazar

Lovely Photos by: Sarah Matista