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."