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One of D.C.'s hottest farm-to-table restaurants focuses on sustainability

D.C.'s Farm-to-Table Rising Star

Ripple Restaurant dishes up culinary cuisine in the most sustainable way.

Cleveland Park’s hottest new restaurant, Ripple, is serving up more than just some of the most sensational contemporary American fare D.C.’s got to offer. This farm-to-table venture, established in 2010, is also on the cutting edge of sustainability with its commitment to sourcing its ingredients from local farms.

“Seasonal ingredients come naturally to Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, whose sun-kissed California style is evident in a kaleidoscope of flavors on your plate,” trumpets USA Today in a piece on D.C.’s best seasonal menus.

The restaurant and its executive chef have gained many other accolades. The Washington Post’s seasoned restaurant critic Tom Sietsema listed Ripple in his 2013 fall and spring dining guides, and Wine Enthusiast chose Ripple as one of the “100 Best Wine Restaurants.”

Meek-Bradley was named semifinalist for both Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award and the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef award. She was also a two-time nominee for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s Rising Culinary Star of the Year.


Farm to Table

Ripple sources 80 percent of its ingredients from within 60 miles, buying from a network of small farmers that includes Amish families in Pennsylvania.

“We really support a lot of small, local farms,” says Meek-Bradley. “We feel that it’s the right thing to do and the product is so much better.”

She finds that produce “grown the way it’s meant to be grown” and picked at its ripest is rewardingly fresh and tasty.

“It’s like when you go to the farmers’ markets and buy a peach versus buying a peach at the grocery store—it’s so much better,” she says. “Everything’s so much more flavorful when picked at the height of the season.”

The focus on farm-to-table ingredients is a key element of environmental sustainability for the restaurant. Buying fresh foods that weren’t transported long distances like much U.S. produce cuts down on fuel use and the attendant greenhouse gases. Buying meat raised humanely on pasture supports a brand of farming that puts resources back into the earth.

Almost everything Ripple sources is organically grown, even if it’s not officially certified as such. Meek-Bradley feels that organic farming on small farms is following a certain natural order, which does right by the earth.

“You’re doing it the way it’s meant to be done,” she says. “And you’re not using as much electricity and gas and pesticides.”

To further its environmental profile, the restaurant also uses green cleaning products and recycles many materials, including all of its used cooking oil through Greenlight Biofuels. 


Cooking with Gas

Meek-Bradley is conscious of the environment even in her choice of cooking fuel. She prefers natural gas to other energy sources in the kitchen for a range of reasons, including its relatively small footprint on the earth.

“You have more control over it,” she says. “You can get a better sear on things. Natural gas is pretty inexpensive and it’s not too damaging to the environment.”

With the burners running from 8 a.m. until midnight every day, those factors are crucial. She reports that some chefs are working with induction—a technology that uses an oscillating magnetic field to produce instantaneous heat—but she still prefers gas because it’s helpful to be able to see the flame.

Indeed, part of what draws Meek-Bradley to her chosen profession is that direct and tactile experience of working with food.

“I enjoy being in the kitchen everyday and working with my hands,” she says.

But of course, the joy people get from what she creates is motivating as well.

“I love how it brings people together,” she says. “People come in and have a good time.”

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