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A Day in the Life of Chef and Father Tim Ma

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Welcome back to On The House, a guest column written by a member of DC's restaurant industry, sharing behind the scenes info, insider knowledge and more. This week, in honor of Father's Day, here's an edited day-in-the-life diary from Maple Ave chef Tim Ma, where he shares what it's like to juggle a restaurant and fatherhood.

timmathreegenerations.jpgA quick intro: I don't have a typical schedule by far, but probably a typical schedule for most chef/owners. This is a snapshot of a busy day for me (Tuesday and rolling into Wednesday). Granted, most days don't include TV appearances and open heart surgery — this was a unique sequence of 24 hours for me — but if I wasn't doing a TV appearance, I would most likely be doing something for the restaurant regardless: a special event, cooking on the line, fixing a sink, replacing equipment, etc. And if it wasn't for my father's open heart surgery, I would most likely be doing something family oriented: trips to the kids' park, swimming class, a D.C. day trip.

I have a unique situation in that three generations on both sides of [my wife and general manager Joey Hernandez's] and my families are so intertwined on a daily basis. Hope this gives a glimpse of being a father, chef, husband, and son.

A day in the life of a chef/father/son/husband – Tuesday, June 11, 2013

7:00 a.m. Get kicked in the face by our daughter as she wakes up. We are softies as parents so she sleeps with us in our bed; picture an "H". If that doesn't wake us up, our son will automatically wake up in 30 minutes anyways and stand up in his crib until we pick him up, trying to say "DADDY" (if you ask Joey he's trying to say "MOMMY") — no snooze button available.

7:15 a.m. Get on the iPhone while still in bed, check overnight emails and emails that got completely ignored from the day before. Today, NBC4 appearance on the 11 a.m. news for RAMMYs promotion in DC, Throwback Tuesdays promotion at Maple Ave for dinner, Charlotte's (our daughter) gymnastics recital finale, meeting with real estate broker at 4 p.m., request for meeting with designer for [upcoming restaurant] Water and Wall (denied), cooking at MAR [Maple Ave. Restaurant] for dinner service 5PM – 8PM, father to have open heart surgery Wednesday morning, Eater article due tomorrow!

7:30 a.m. Chase (our son) wakes up, gets his bottle. Charlotte (our daughter) gets cinnamon raisin toast with blackberry jam, a yogurt smoothie, and berries.

8:00 a.m. Nanny arrives to care for Chase. Charlotte begins to get ready for gymnastics with the grandparents. I head to restaurant to begin circulating lamb chops for NBC segment in immersion circulator, and pack up some parsley that was forgotten last night.

8:15 a.m. I head back home to spend some time with the kids before we head to the city.

8:30 a.m. Grab keys, micros swipe card, sharpie, dry erase, and pen. Empty bag with yesterday's mail and invoices, take in new wine glasses because servers are determined to break at least one a day/per person.

8:45 a.m. Head back to restaurant with Joey. We live a nice 12-minute walk to restaurant. On days that I know I will need a car, it's a 2-minute drive. Today no choice but to drive.

9 a.m. Morning kitchen crew arrives and begins setup and prep. I check preplist and inventory and make necessary orders for the next day. Check PM breakdown and briefly meet with AM crew to discuss notes for the day. Add or remove from prep list prepared by PM crew to make sure we don't over or under prep. Think specials, on this particular day, will be local MD pheasant, and Throwback Tuesdays menu items (pulled pork, potstickers, funnel cake). Remove pulled pork from oven that has been cooking all night, check quality. Begin to load car with all items needed for NBC bit. Joey grabs Robeks and decorations. Car loaded and ready to go.

9:20 a.m. Surprisingly, leave MAR on time as planned, not surprisingly traffic into DC is a NIGHTMARE.

10 a.m. Supposed to be at NBC, but still 15 minutes away. Joey reads me emails and texts from MAR keeping me updated. Text from my mom that Charlotte is ready and on her way to her recital.

10:15 a.m. Arrive at NBC 15 minutes late, fazes no one we are late; we are planned to go on air at 11:45, so more than enough time to get setup. Say hi to Kathy Hollinger, Julie Sproesser from RAMW and Brittany Garrison from ThreeLockharts PR.

10:20 a.m. Briefly meet Eun Yang; she is presenting at RAMMY's as well, was stoked to meet her.

10:45 a.m. – Text from mom that "class is starting and they will record the entire thing for us, don't worry". Text from MAR indicating "baby octopus ceviche tastes like it needs more citrus so I'm adding some sudachi". Text from my best friend from high school (also our logo and signage designer) "yo let's meet for lunch at Daikaya and talk water and wall". Continuing to setup with Joey for this single dish for a 5-minute segment. Beginning to get really nervous about being on TV for first time.

10:55 a.m. Briefly meet Barbara Harrison as she makes her way to the news desk right next to us. Isn't she going to be on air in 5 minutes, how is she so calm and ready? Trips me out how all of it works.

11 a.m. News begins, I continue to setup but more quietly, all the while picturing Will Ferrell in Anchorman and throwing a football across the room.

11:15 a.m. All setup, go back to green room and shoot the sh*t with everyone.

11:30 a.m. Check-in with restaurant to make sure all is okay, all is okay.

11:35 a.m. Amused by the HPV segment, and hope that we are not the food segment that follows HPV.

11:40 a.m. We are told we are the next segment. We will be on after this next commercial break; we are led back into studio to get ready. Getting nervous, but then think about my family, what my dad will be going through tomorrow, my wife and my children and all is well.

11:50 a.m. Segment over, we break down the table and say our goodbyes.

12:10 p.m. Car loaded and on our way to Daikaya for lunch.

12:30 p.m. Traffic still sucks in DC, on phone with MAR to ensure service still fine. Going back over emails to prep to talk about logos and signage. It's always funny to see a design that we started with and what we are working with now.

12:45 p.m. Find parking right in front of Daikaya; my friend is already waiting for us. Receive a text from Joey's mom indicating the handoff of Charlotte from my parent's to Joey's mom is smooth, receive a picture of her playing mini-golf with her cousins, so all is well. Nanny sends Joey a picture of our son Chase standing on his own, she shows me.

1:00 p.m. We get one of each bowl of ramen, AMAZING. Noodles have amazing texture, my bowl of shoyu ramen and menma bamboo shoots hit the spot. We decide we like the newest signage design and the original design of the logo. We agree, setup to meet on Thursday to finalize the design in front of a computer.

2:00 p.m. Buy the cooks a round of beers, say our goodbyes and we are off back to VA.

3:00 p.m. Arrive at home. Joey gets Chase ready for his afternoon nap, I get on the computer at home for some emails. Set up wine meeting on Thursday, line cook interview on Thursday, start to make sure we have what we need for Friday's catering for Vice Mayor. Quickly email Polyface to make sure we can get a pork belly for tomorrow's delivery, and to postpone rabbit delivery till next week since I will be mostly out of MAR for next couple days with my dad.

4:00 p.m. Forgot about 4PM meeting at MAR — get a call from MAR saying that my meeting is here and waiting for me, and we are out of green cabbage, need it for pulled pork tonight!

4:10 p.m. Arrive at MAR, apologize profusely. Work quickly through meeting to discuss future opportunities, all the while, checking with kitchen staff and FOH staff that we will be ready for a busy night.

5:00 p.m. Meeting ends, I shoot over to Whole Foods for 4 heads green cabbage.

5:15 p.m. Back at MAR, hand off green cabbage to get prepped, tables already in. I grab an apron, towels, and my knife, get on line and start cooking.

6:00 p.m. First mini-rush passed, Joey shows up with Chase and Charlotte for a sneak peek of the kids. Some daddy time, hugs and kisses at the pass.

6:15 p.m. Joey rushes kids back home, heads right back to MAR to help FOH with next rush.

7:15 p.m. Middle of main rush, VIPs in back room getting first cut of pheasant dish, sous vide roulade of MD pheasant, shallot puree, rhubarb green tomato salsa verde (same prep from NBC bit), using MD pheasant instead of Australian lamb (RAMMY sponsor).

8:30 p.m. Main rush over, grab a beer, order some food for the kids and grandparents (mushroom zucchini risotto, whole bronzini, onion fried rice, pulled pork sandwich).

8:45 p.m. Talk with PM staff about seafood order for tomorrow and prep list for the AM crew. Start to think about specials for the weekend and FATHER'S DAY!

9:00 p.m. Arrive home, eat some Korean short ribs my mother-in-law cooked for me in exchange for the pulled pork sandwich I brought home for her. She is Salvadorean — why she is cooking Korean short ribs I have no idea but I like it. Truly one of my culinary influences. Sit down with all the grandparents and watch Charlotte's gymnastics recital on the computer. Ensure with my dad he is ready for heart surgery tomorrow, decide that we will wake up at 4:30 a.m. to make it to hospital for 5 a.m. check-in. Getting more nervous about it than I thought I would; my dad is his usual calm. Mom and Joey are starting to freak the f**k out.

9:30 p.m. Turn on the TV and watch the NBC segment on DVR. Try to explain to Charlotte how poppa is in the TV. Chase is really into building blocks, maybe he will be an engineer? Charlotte continues to show me some her gymnastics moves and shows me the medal she got from her class. The medal says she is number 1 but she wants to be number zero. Chase wants to grab the medal from her... they go back and forth. Chase wins!

10:00 p.m. Grandma leaves, Joey and I barter about who does what shift. Tonight, I will put the kids to sleep, Joey will sleep first and then do the night shift (normally I win big time; she will do both).

10:30 p.m. Charlotte passes out first, it only takes two Mo Willems books to take her down. I take her to bed with Joey.

11:45 p.m. Chase almost makes it all the way to the end of the Spurs blowout of the Heat and then falls asleep. I fall asleep on the floor in the living room surrounded by big blocks and My Little Pony.
· All Previous On the House Columns [-EDC-]
· All Previous Coverage of Tim Ma [-EDC-]

Three generations of Ma [Photo: Facebook]

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