Dean Maupin: C&O's heir apparent takes the reins

After 32 years, C&O Restaurant owner Dave Simpson is ready to pass the torch.

"Not only am I beginning to run out of steam," says the 58-year old Simpson, "but after 32 years I'm running out of ideas."

Don't worry, Simpson says he isn't going anywhere soon, but he has tapped the person he wants to run the restaurant that first put Charlottesville on the culinary map: former Keswick executive chef Dean Maupin.

"He's someone I trust with the legacy of the C&O," says Simpson. "He's the perfect guy to pass the torch to."

Simpson says he wants to hand over the C&O the same way he received it. Back in 1980, when he was a struggling young chef, original owners Sandy McAdams and Philip Stafford gave him a chance to run his own business.

"The C&O is really an impossible place to own," says Simpson, "You really just have to tend it."

The 37-year-old Maupin also comes full circle. Before apprenticing at the Greenbrier resort, before cooking under the guidance of local chefs Tim Burgess and Vincent Derquenne at Metro, before the Boar's Head, and before running the kitchens at Keswick and the Clifton Inn, he worked for Simpson at the C&O.

"I'm so proud of him," says Simpson. "He's worked hard and done really well for himself."

The new boss says has he has no plans to introduce any big changes, although he expresses a wish to upgrade the late-night menu to the same quality as the regular dinner menu. He also plans to ramp up the restaurant's catering business.

"Like Dave, I want to be a steward of this place and continue to let it create its own magic," says Maupin.

"I needed to re-find my soul as a chef, and being back at a place like the C&O, an independent restaurant with such style, is what I was looking for," says Maupin, who took over as chef several weeks ago. "It's really the perfect fit for me at this point in my career."

While the two men haven't set a sale date, Maupin says he has begun to introduce his own culinary style.

"I'm not some groundbreaking chef," says Maupin. "I think of myself as a cook, and I take great pride in sourcing great product, and not complicating it."

Since Maupin has "cooked" at places like the Clifton and Keswick for customers with high expectations, the "cook" moniker he gives himself may be a little too modest.

"I've learned to please the most demanding foodies," Maupin concedes, "but I also don't want to intimidate the couple who come out to dinner every once in a while. Still, people know food now more than ever, and you have to execute."

One reason the C&O has been such a special place all these years has been its people and the freedom they're given by Simpson.

"The great thing about this place is that it gives you the canvas to do your thing," says Maupin.

"The C&O is so quirky," says Simpson. "And it's the home of the second chance."

13 comments

maupin pleased the most demanding foodies at fossett's? that's news to me.

hmmmmmmm...C+O has always been my favorite. This change makes me nervous. Please don't turn it into Zinc or the Clifton Inn.

There are good people in Charlottesville, there are better people in Charlottesville and, then, there are the best people. Dave Simpson is one of the best. The C&O ranks very high on the list of places that helped to make the downtown area the go to place for fine dining. I have had dozens of meals at the C&O in the many years that I have been around this town. Everyone of them was a culinary home run. When I think of what a bar should look like and be like, I think of the C&O. Dave don't go too far and Dean, the best of luck. Big shoes to fill, but I know you can do it.

Totally inconsequential trivia point: Wasn't Le Galerie the first food destination in Cville?

But the C&O is mythic; I'm still mourning the loss of the night club. Best music scene this town ever had.

The C&O was the first nationally known food destination in Gallery- it was written up by Craig Claiborne in the mid to late 70's (76 I think). The upstairs was considered the best place to have that special dinner. Dave Simpson is a very special person - the dean of food if you well. He's charm and good taste will be missed. C&O catering was one of the most consistent in town for decades. Dave will be missed.

The Galerie was between Crozet and Ivy. It was where Tim Burgess and Vincent Derquenne first worked together- it was the king of the 80's around here. I agree it was the best music scene Downtown has ever seen was the C&O.

I know every restaurant is bond to give out a bad meal once in a while, but I heard about the hype the first few years I lived here and booked a dinner for New Year's eve about 5 years ago there. I ordered a steak medium and it came back very tough and dry...to the point I could not cut it with the knife they offered, which was basically a pointed butter knife. When I asked for a steak knife I was told very rudely that "that is our steak knife" despite not having a cutting edge. I really could not eat it and wasn't given a replacement. Not to rag on the place but I always hear how great it is and wonder if it is more of a reputation than reality when my meal was nothing difficult to prepare. For the price of our meal I expected better.

bound not bond

A little history and portrait of Dave, one of the finest people I know.

http://www.readthehook.com/65919/co-friendly-port-stormy-world

Congratulations to one of the best chef's from whom I've had the fortune of enjoying his culinary skills! Dean is one of the best out there and I'm quite certain will make his mark at the C&O while maintaining all that locals love about the place. To the contributor "Orchid", why rain on someone's else's accomplishments with a sarcastic, negative comment? If only locals could support one another rather than channel their own life's disappointments to others unnecessarily.

Best wishes to chef Dean and his new endeavor! Can't wait to sample your menu!

I thought the late night stuff was the better food from the C&O for what you paid. But a worshiper I was not. The Metropolitan did it for me until they got too full of themselves.

Please don't give up the usuals...Steak Chinois, C&O vegetable soup, the handwritten menus, etc. C&O has such a great crowd of regulars that appreciate its constancy.

Orchid never got over how we didn't kiss her butt - pls disregard her comments.

Dean Maupin is by far the best Chef in the area, but he is NOT cooking at the restaurant - just doing catering (9-5!) and we should still be careful where we spend our money!!

Congratulations to Dave Simpson ... Elaine Churchman ... Sandy Macadams ... Philip Stafford ... and now Dave Maupin. Let's bring back dancing on the bar!