Around F.C., News

In the Kitchen, F.C. Chefs Love to Keep Things Local

Steve Benincasa, executive chef at Argia’s, says he’ll head to nearby grocery store The Local Market or to Clare & Don’s next door if he needs an ingredient in a pinch. (Photo: News-Press)
Steve Benincasa, executive chef at Argia’s, says he’ll head to nearby grocery store The Local Market or to Clare & Don’s next door if he needs an ingredient in a pinch. (Photo: News-Press)

The head chefs at the Mad Fox Brewing Company, Argia’s and Dogwood Tavern don’t have much time to cook at home or shop for groceries.
When you’re in the kitchen 10 hours a day, six days a week, it’s hard to find a minute for much else.

When these Falls Church chefs do buy ingredients, the goal is to stay as local as possible — sometimes as local as the Falls Church Farmers Market.
Steve Benincasa, executive chef at Argia’s, says he sometimes shops at The Local Market on Broad St. and visits a specialty shop for Italian delicacies.

Mad Fox head chef Cameron Cousin has developed good relationships with local vendors during his 10 years in the area. He says he buys his meats, fruits and vegetables from farms in Round Top, Virginia, while fish is delivered to the restaurant from the East Coast — always within 24 hours of being caught.

Since they spend all day working in the kitchen, the chefs say cooking at home is not a common occurrence.

“Very, very rarely [do I cook at home]”, Carlos Perez, head chef at Dogwood Tavern, says. “I like to cook for other people but not for myself.”

Cousin and Benincasa don’t cook too much for guests at home either, they say. Cousin says he does like to test different kinds of tomatoes and beans in his home kitchen before they go on his menu. And Benincasa admits that he sometimes uses his wife’s friends as guinea pigs for new recipes.

When he does cook at home, Benincasa says he’s much more relaxed, often sipping wine without the need to fret about call-outs.

Cousin and Benincasa are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Perez’s culinary education began after he came to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was 16. He spent 10 years working at restaurants in Georgetown, learning the trade as a dishwasher as he slowly climbed the culinary ladder.

The chefs pointed to a close-knit Falls Church culinary community. When they run out of food at their respective restaurants, they’re able to visit their neighbors to borrow necessary ingredients.

Benincasa goes to Clare and Don’s Beach Shack next door, and he returns the favor if they are ever desperate for an ingredient.

“We try to say yes to each other,” he says, but “our menus are so different.”

Perez calls other restaurants to borrow things but, as a last resort, is sometimes forced to go to the Harris Teeter.

Cousin said the alliance between restaurants works because they all are working for the same reasons.

“A lot of restaurants are pretty friendly,” he says. “We’re all here for one goal: to put out great food. We’re not all evil. We’re competitive, of course, but we all want to have a good product.”

Argia’s Italian Restaurant | 124 N. Washington St., Falls Church

Dogwood Tavern | 132 W. Broad St. Falls Church

Mad Fox Brewing Company | 444 W Broad St., Falls Church