Cookin' up a dream together
FALLS CHURCH, VA. — They baked together when he was just a child in Bethesda, Md. Now he's in his middle 30s and a chef, Jonathan Krinn's face glows when he talks about his father, Malvin Krinn.
"Dad was the cook in our house," he says. "He taught me to make pasta and bake bread when I was a kid. And I cleaned up after, which made Mom happy."
At that time, the father was the teacher as he guided his son's hands and showed him how to respect the dough. Dr. Krinn had learned to bake from his wife's grandmother, who lived in Florida.
Due to his training as an ophthalmologist, "I learned to be precise with measurements and quantities," says the elder Krinn. "But I loved to play with other aspects, like the flavors."
It's a love he passed on to his son.
As father and son cooked and baked together, they also began to share a dream. Their vision was to have a small restaurant where they could continue to bake and be together.
"We generally ate at home," recalls Jonathan, "but when I told my dad I wanted to be a chef, his response was, 'If you want to be a chef, let's go meet some of the best ones.' "
The senior Krinn took his son to New York City, and they ate at Daniel, an award-winning restaurant celebrated for its elegant cuisine. "I was even more determined after eating at Daniel," says the chef. "I knew more than ever that I wanted to be a chef."
So his father sent him to France for serious training. "I was lonely," Jonathan recalls. "It was a new place, new people. I would call Dad, and he stood by me each step of the way."
He recalls his father constantly guiding him and telling him the hard work would pay off.
The relationship stayed strong through the years. Then it took a different turn when the younger Krinn - by then an accomplished chef, having worked in France and at leading New York restaurants such as Union Pacific - decided to return to his hometown in 2001.
"I was ready to start my own place," says Chef Krinn, "and I wanted my dad to be there with me, to bake his amazing breads."
His dad - by then retired from his career as an ophthalmologist - agreed, and they began to look for just the right place. They eventually found an ideal spot in an office building overlooking a lake in northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.
"We took it," says Chef Krinn, "and my father came to work for me."
Today, they still bake bread together, only the teacher-student roles have been reversed. "While he knew how to bake the perfect bread, he did not know how to run a restaurant; he was a doctor," the son says of his father.
When they opened the restaurant, named 2941, two years ago in Falls Church, Va., Dr. Krinn's beautiful breads became the opening act for every meal. The feedback from the patrons echoed Chef Krinn's own feelings about his father's breads: They loved them.
Dr. Krinn's bread-baking style combines Italian techniques and French garnishes. "It's a fusion style," says his son, "and it works because he is an American baker. He is not afraid to take elements from two different cultures and create something unique."
Flavors such as fig-lavender-honey, pine nut date, and - the doctor's personal favorite - cherry with white chocolate continue to entice the patrons.
"I love having Dad with me in the kitchen each day," says Chef Krinn.
His father nods in agreement and then excuses himself for a moment.
As soon as he is gone, Chef Krinn whispers, "I am so confident in my kitchen, giving orders and running a tight ship. Yet whenever Dad walks in, I wonder if he thinks I am doing a good job. I respect him, and his support and approval mean a great deal to me."
There is one downside of having your father work by your side, says the chef: "No cussing when he is in hearing distance."
Neither of them ever imagined that a simple dream would result in a sprawling fine-dining restaurant that today employs more than 100.
Before it had been in operation for two years, the restaurant was awarded a coveted three-star rating by The Washington Post, and Chef Krinn was recognized as a "Rising Star Chef" by the Restaurant Association of Washington.
"I am very proud of my son," says Dr. Krinn, who adds that the key to their relationship is "mutual admiration and respect."
The younger Krinn agrees. "Dad was a practicing physician for 30 years when he joined me, but he was not afraid to start at level one and go from there. I truly admire that."
When asked what they will do on Father's Day this year, the father and son look at each other and smile.
"We will come into the restaurant in the morning, give each other a knowing smile, shake hands," says Chef Krinn, "and get to work on perfecting our dream."