Executive Chef Rob Weland
Executive Chef Rob Weland is a man whose mission is easily stated: Allow his guests to rediscover the simple joy of a thoughtfully prepared meal shared with family and friends.
We spoke with Chef Weland and he discussed how his experiences have contributed to his mission, as well as what it means to truly "eat well."
After a year at the Ritz-Carlton in New York, they sent you on sabbatical to Lyon, France, where you worked at Pierre Orsi, the two-star Michelin restaurant. What did you bring back from your European adventure?
Two things were clear: The value of open-air markets and the contribution quality meats, cheeses and produce have upon a dish.
Market-to-Market is one of Poste's more popular events. Is that a result of your time in France?
But there is also a distinct cultural difference when it comes to food. In France, they have a much higher appreciation of food and their time spent together enjoying it. I lived with a family there, and it was not uncommon for them to sit down and enjoy a meal for two-and-a-half hours and have a conversation while they ate.
Yes. In Europe, people visit the open-air markets and hand-select the ingredients for their dishes. We do that regularly here. But with Market-to-Market, guests are involved. A group of guests and myself visit markets like the FRESHFARM Market at Penn Quarter, select the items for the dishes and then my staff and I prepare a meal with them.
New York Times Critic William Grimes wrote that "Weland knows the difference between simple and simple-minded" - is that a fair appraisal?
It's harder to do simple food than to cook more complex food. With a simple dish, if you're not using good product, you're starting behind the eight ball. Complex dishes involve so many items, it's like having a safety net. It's much harder to put three ingredients on a plate and have a positive effect on people.
Like chefs, gardeners have secret ingredients and methods they use to help their garden grow. What are your secrets when tending Poste's on-site garden?
As a general rule, all of us take care of the garden. All the cooks are involved. Our big secret is fortifying and nourishing the soil with the compost we produce. As you can imagine, we generate a lot of compost - six bins of it. That all goes back into the ground, the organic coffee grounds, organic egg shells, everything.
When you talk about sustainability, can restaurants really make a difference?
Without question. Restaurants are the front line in many ways. If chefs aren't demanding sustainable products, if they're not composting, buying fresh items, it has a very real impact. Compostable materials go to the landfill; trucks have to haul everything long distances; local farmers have to change their environmentally sound practices to survive. We all benefit by having healthier soil, healthier water, healthier animals. Restaurants do play an important role.
Who are some of the farmers you often buy from?
Quite a few. Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. His animals are grazed on pasture. Everything rotates around his land and all of it is sustainable - his chicken, pork, eggs.
As people become more aware of the importance of eating locally and purchasing sustainable crops, where do you see food trends going?
We use many others, too. There's Brad Parker's Pipe Dreams, where we get our goat cheese and goat meat. We support a majority of farmers at the FRESHFARM Market at Penn Quarter. The Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative is year-round, organic and very well organized.
Traceability. They want to know where that food comes from. And people want to support the person next door.
Why is Poste so highly regarded?
I think consistency. We try to get better each year, try to do different things. Poste Roasts are an example of something we've added to the lineup. It's grown into something very cool. We do it family style, and you get the table for the entire evening. There's a lot of participation. I give the guests a tour of our garden. We present the produce and ingredients, then we bring it back to the kitchen, break it down in the kitchen and cook.
Who are your influences?
Alice Waters, Larry Forgione, Marcel Desaulniers, Gray Kunz.
What's the one thing the kitchen you can't live without?
Cooks. I'm nothing without them. It's the team, the brigade.
When you interview young chefs, what do you look for, what ingredients do you think they should possess?
Willingness to learn. And respect for their product. If they don't have that, it's very hard to teach.
What do you consider the one dish that defines your talent?
At Poste, we have a good program with the Culinary Institute of America. We get their externs. We have two to three externs at all times.
No way. I'm not answering that. I could never answer that! (Laughs)
What do you cook at home?
Considering I've just had a daughter, I've been using a blender. A lot.
When you're not working, what's your free time consist of?
Drummer. Pretty much rock. I was in a band for many years. Now, I finally have a drum room, which I'm very excited about. I ride road bikes, too. I've raced a few times, but I don't have the time to train properly.
What does a chef learn that they don't teach in school?
(Laughs) I need a drink to answer that question... Patience. And how to deal with people. It's very important to understand personalities, because you're dealing with so many different personalities in the kitchen.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what's the one dish you need?
I love a great roast chicken. Simple.
And what would accompany it?
Poste’s Passion & Commitment to Quality
You'll often find Chef tending the restaurant's onsite organic garden. Seasonal herbs, vegetables and greens are grown and harvested for immediate use in Poste's dishes. In the summer, heirloom tomatoes, and in the cooler months, squashes and winter vegetables are featured. Products are harvested daily from the garden to the plate, offering an unparalleled taste of fresh flavors to the dishes served at Poste.
Chef and Poste Moderne Brasserie also proudly support and adhere to Kimpton's EarthCare practices. Everything from recycling excess cooking oils and paper products to featuring organic, local and sustainable products and ingredients on the menus to using energy-efficient and eco-friendly systems and operations is a priority.