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Member On the Menu: Dave Delaplaine, RAMMYS 2019 Manager of the Year Finalist

April 15, 2019

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) presents Dave Delaplaine, General Manager and Beer Director of Roofers Union. He is nominated for the Manager of the Year award for the 2019 RAMMY Awards Gala on June 30. The Manager of the Year award goes to a non-owner manager or general manager in the food service industry who displays the highest level of professionalism and leadership. This person must be an inspiration and mentor to all his/her co-workers displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image.‚Äč

Name // Title // Bio  Dave Delaplaine, General Manager/Beer Director at Roofers Union. A self-professed geek of all things beverage related, Dave Delaplaine’s true passion is beer, with a focus on all things local. As beer specialist at Roofers Union, located in the heart of Adams Morgan, Delaplaine works with 22 draft lines that change frequently according to the season and availability to offer cask and draft options as well as ciders.

From 2010-2014 Delaplaine worked at Roofers Union sister restaurant, Ripple. During his four-year tenure at the beloved Cleveland Park restaurant and bar, Delaplaine brought diversity and depth to the beer program while forging strong relationships with local and national brewers in order to deliver hard to find, limited production beers to guests. Prior to joining the Ripple team, Delaplaine worked at Alliance Tavern and DC favorite, Estadio.

In 2017, Dave became the proud father to Sebastian Delaplaine. He lives in Petworth with his wife and son. When he isn't at the restaurant or home with the fam, you can find him playing ultimate frisbee at the mall (likely torn to shreds from one too many dives).

What's the hardest part about being the GM of a restaurant? Early on, it was learning to be a leader of my peers. I have always strived to lead by example, as a server and bartender, and I think this helped me make the jump but it still took some soul searching and hard work to learn to distance myself from peers in order to have the authority to have discipline when necessary. While I think this has become easier over the years, this is something I often need to keep in mind.

...and the most rewarding part? Watching our employees grow. I absolutely love when we are able to promote from within. I like to think of our support team as a farm system for our servers. And the servers for bartenders and managers and so on. It is extremely rewarding when we hire a teenager who struggles to stay on task and through hard work, we are able to cultivate their passion and eventually make them a server.  

How are you influenced by the neighborhood you are located in? The neighborhood has been a huge driving force in our vision for Roofers Union. When I took over as general manager 6 months in, and set a 5 year plan, my number one goal was to place ourselves as one of the faces of Adams Morgan. I think it depends on your concept, but our goal was to be an integrity-driven neighborhood bar, and we have taken every possible opportunity to integrate ourselves into our community. I currently serve on the Taste of Adams Morgan and Adams Morgan Day planning committees. Any opportunity to support not only community non-profits, but new up and coming restaurants and other businesses, is very important to us. A good new restaurant to AdMo is not competition - it is reinforcement. The stronger an experience we offer as a community, the stronger we each will be.

How did you get started in the business? What was your first job in the industry & what did you learn from it? My first job in the industry was as a server at a large corporate chain restaurant (UNOs Chicago Grill if I have to share) when I was 20. While I left frustrated by some of the limits of large corporate restaurants, I also left with a huge passion for this industry. I knew this was the industry I wanted to grow in. It's funny because early on, I remember thinking I never wanted to be a restaurant manager and now here I am.  

Where do you see yourself in five years? I'd love to open and have some ownership in a restaurant or beer garden. I hope to find a way that I can do that parallel to Roofers Union. I love Roofers and feel that I have invested so much of myself into it and want to continue to do this so I hope that I am also still involved here. We've built a great team and continue to evolve every day. It's a constant learning experience. Even though we are 5 years in, with all the moving parts (3 distinct floors), I still feel like its a new restaurant and my head is on a swivel and I'm just trying to keep up.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Don't be afraid to make mistakes (from Danny Fisher--then GM at Ripple). It was 2010, I was new at Ripple and remember thinking every question I asked was stupid (some definitely were) and I was afraid to catch the wrath of the intimidating chefs. Knowing that Danny believe in me and my passion, gave me the strength I needed to succeed in the finer dining environment that I found intimidating. This is something I've tried to pass on to my staff. Sometimes, you just need to remind an employee that you believe in them and that will give them the strength to make the improvements you need to see.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Maybe coaching? There are a lot of sports I am obsessed with.  Back in grade school, I saw myself becoming a track coach.  Maybe when my little guy gets older, I'll be able to make a little time to coach some little league teams and my life will be complete!

What is your favorite ingredient? Acidity. I know, this is a flavor not an ingredient, but seriously, whether food or beverage, I love when the perfect amount of acidity in a dish can make the other flavors explode.

Age. Now, before you disqualify this answer, let me try to explain. Think of what age does to that wonderful cut of grass-fed beef you had at your favorite restaurant. Patience in food and patience in beverage can allow the product to come to full fruition.

Okay, if you are disqualifying both of these, how about: Pickled blueberries. Put them on a duck breast. Put them on waffles. Put them in a salad. Put them in your favorite ricky cocktail (maybe even a blueberry shrub?) and you will be delighted.

What insider foodie tip do you have for diners? 1. Ask for recommendations. NEVER EVER FEEL INTIMIDATED ASKING FOR RECOMENDATIONS. If the place you are at scoffs at your asking for recommendations, get up and leave, they are not worth your time or money. The staff at any good restaurant, from casual to the finest of fine dining should be passionate about your experience and the menu they represent.  If you come to Roofers and are asking about a beer, we will strongly encourage you to sample a couple and make sure you are digging; 2. Beer Cellar Lists. If a restaurant has a beer list, do not be scared off by a $25 - 50 750ml bottle of beer. If you are like me, you probably won't think twice over a bottle of wine for $45-75, but when we see a bottle of beer for $40, that seems ridiculous. Pick the right beer off that list and you can have a better pairing experience than any wine.

You're hosting a dream dinner party. What three people would be at your table? Tom Sietsema, Barack Obama, Zion Williamson
Tom, I would love the opportunity to just be myself and pick is brain; Barack, I mean who wouldn't want this. It would be great to hear how he really feels about Trump, but even more so, I'd love to hear how he feels about our city now that he is less engrossed into politics; Zion, I do not think there is anyone who smiles as much as this guy. Yes, he would be intimidating considering he is twice my size and can probably jump over me, but it's the passion that he plays with and the fact that he does it with a smile on his face that puts him at my table. (Robert Mueller was a close 4th)

It's the last meal of your life - what's on your plate? Any awesome cut of grass-fed beef paired with Bruery Terreux's Yount (barrel aged, 51% beer - 49% really good cab sauv).  Seriously, this beer is the most sensational thing I've tasted ever.  In fact, skip the food and just give me a bottle of this to share with friends.  My experience tasting this at the end of SAVOR last year was one of those moments where everything around you slows down and the moment is enhanced forever in your memory.  

What are your pet peeves?

  • Falseness.  In life and at work, I am a very trusting person.  It makes my skin itch when I cannot trust somebody. I cannot tolerate an employee who has lied to me.  
  • The word customer. Hopefully, enough said.
  • Litter. I HATE litter. It shows such a lack of respect for others and the world we live in. Whether a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of the table or a slurpee cup left on the side of the road, HAVE A CARE.  

What is your favorite way to give back to the community? Running a restaurant, I have a unique opportunity to bring in young staff and hopefully cultivate them into better people, especially professionally. School isn't always the right fit for everybody. This industry is unique because it rewards experience and hard work over education. Developing our young staff into strong workers and communicators can be tedious, frustrating, and just hard, but it is so rewarding in the end. We also love any opportunity to give back to some of our local non-profits. Whether helping them plan events in our community or putting on events to benefit them, these events are always a win-win. The more we tie ourselves to our community, the more we will benefit in the long run.

Why do you love working in restaurants? The opportunity to share my passion with staff and guests alike. I LOVE when somebody comes in and tells me about a beer they love and I am able to pour them a taste of something that gives them that same feeling. Even better, is when I am able to turn a guest onto a new style. So often, we think we do not like something after a couple tries but when before you know it, you find it prepared a different way or with a better balance, and it changes your world. I remember a time when I hated mushrooms and IPAs. WOW, my life would be incomplete without mushrooms and IPAs.  When I have the opportunity to change somebody's mind about something they thought they didn't like, it is more than rewarding.