Feasting Famously with Chef Geoff Tracy
Geoff Tracy, aka Chef Geoff, is the man behind the wildly popular Chef Geoff’s DC restaurants, of which there are four, and his one non-name sake, Lia’s. The restaurants are known for their inviting, non-pretentious atmosphere; the cuisine freshly American; and the happy hours bring college students and K Street lobbyists alike together over affordable “supermugs,” burgers, and pizzas.
However that is “Chef Geoff” the restaurants, but what of Chef Geoff the owner?
Chef Geoff the owner, employer, supervisor, restaurateur, and culinary mastermind is known for a few other things. As overseer of his DC area empire, Chef Geoff the employer is known, and maybe feared, for his meticulous management style, type-A, data driven recipe tracking system, and a review system with over 800 performance standards. It’s even been reported that all of the menu items, over 1600 to be exact, are digitized and linked to their recipes and other serving and preparation instructions for employees.
That sounds…boring. Right? I’m not in the restaurant business, and surely all of these things have contributed to his success. So if you want to learn what number 645 is on his standard performance list, or what his plans are for restaurant expansion in DC (it’s five more restaurants by 2020 by the way), this isn’t going to tickle your fancy.
However, if you want to know what Geoff Tracy the man, the father, the husband’s (to CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell) favorite food is, where he likes to get pizza in DC, and what his thoughts are on the DC food scene (especially before he moves his family to New York this January), congratulations, you may continue.
I just keep it simple. Pepperoni – straight up
When Geoff Tracy has a craving, his only cure is pizza (and more cowbell one can only assume). While his favorite pizza can only be found in the North end of Boston at Regina’s, which has been around “for about a hundred years” according to Geoff (86 years to be exact, but I wasn’t going to tell him that). “When I go up to see Red Sox games, or visit the great city of Boston, I always try to make a stop up there,” says Geoff. “It’s just a great little hole in the wall.” Despite being a man with access to the world’s finest ingredients, he says when he’s there, “I just keep it simple. Pepperoni – straight up.” When in DC, like most, he loves Two Amy’s. But don’t bother him if you see him there with a beautiful woman, “That’s traditionally my date night spot with Norah” he adds. If you want to eat like Chef Geoff, sans the CBS This Morning co-host, order the Santa Brigida at Two Amy’s, and add sausage.
When he’s not dining with Norah at Two Amy’s, Geoff says the couple frequents the Chef Geoff’s flagship restaurant near where they live in Upper Northwest, and like past Feasting Famously interviewee Tucker Carlson, they love Blacksalt. “Jeff Black is a very, very talented chef and restaurateur, and I admire his work,” says Geoff.
If I’m cooking at home, it’s like open the refrigerator, see what’s there, and just make something out of it.
Date night is something that likely happens often in the Tracy household. “I do all the cooking,” says Geoff. “Norah will claim to have probably made two or three meals, over the course of the last year. It’s just never been her expertise. She can put together pretty nice pasta, but I’m sort of exclusively the cook at home.” However, in shocking contrast to his recipe-data center in the restaurants, Geoff says when he’s cooking at home, “I have absolutely no go-to recipes. If I’m cooking at home, it’s like open the refrigerator, see what’s there, and just make something out of it.”
I asked Geoff if I opened his refrigerator, or went through his kitchen, what the weirdest thing I would find is. “Well, I have some very old coconut milk that’s been in there forever. I’ve got some zucchini paste that’s been in there forever. Those things have gathered a lot of dust in my pantry…I’m not doing a lot of Thai-inspired cooking in my home.” For a guy who’s made his living off classic Americana cuisine, that is not surprising at all. It’d be like Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto rushing home to grill a chili-cheese hot dog – bet that’s not happening either.
What is the one thing in his kitchen Geoff can’t live without?
“Sriracha. I always have a couple of back up bottles of Sriracha. It provides beautiful heat. You can put it on anything from a turkey sandwich to a burger. I made bison burgers last night, and there was definitely Sriracha on it. I make turkey sausage in the morning, and I put Sriracha on it.”
Cookie, cake or pie?
For Geoff, it’s cookies all the way, without hesitation I might add. He recalls fond memories of making chocolate chip cookies with his father on cold and dreary days.
You know, I opened my first restaurant twelve and a half years ago. The difference between then and now is amazing. I think it’s a true culinary city.
His thoughts on the DC food scene?
“You know, I opened my first restaurant twelve and a half years ago. The difference between then and now is amazing. I think it’s a true culinary city. The argument of comparing it to New York, having just been up there and spending more time up there, my take is there are 16 million people in NYC on a Wednesday afternoon. And we don’t have 16 million people. We’re a small powerful city and I think on a per capita ratio, I think we do just fine. I think the scene is great and is continuing to grow. I think we have some great chefs who have grown up in their careers here and are continuing to develop the scene and develop more restaurants.”
When you combine the man and his style (as OCD as it may seem), with his knowledge of food and what the DC scene craves, it’s no wonder his restaurants continuously serve high quality and delicious meals that constantly keep the door rotating. Given this, it’s also no wonder that Chef Geoff’s time in DC is drawing near, as he prepares to move his family to New York in January, where his wife Norah O’Donnell is co-hosting CBS This Morning.
We here at FamousDC wish Chef Geoff and his family the best of luck on all of their new endeavors, both possible expansions on his empire here in DC, and whatever New York may offer them.
I’ll raise my supermug to that. Cheers!