Executive Chef Creates Aesthetic Delicacies

Written by Cami Coulter
Photos By: Josh Triggs

Harpers Ferry native, Brad Spates, knew early on that he would become a chef. So early on that his mother went into labor with him in John’s Family Restaurant in Rippon, WV. Slowly over the next ten years a relationship blossomed between his family and the owners. That turned into the family being there for hours on end after church on Sundays and eventually led to Brad bussing tables, rolling silverware and cooking in the kitchen in the same place he was almost born in. “I kind of grew up in that restaurant so I think there was a love early on for cooking,” Chef Brad says.

Chef Brad did his schooling at the Culinary Institute of America in New York but he also went to school locally at James Rumsey Technical Institute in the Culinary Arts Program. “Most of my experience comes from working in great kitchens with Ian McDouglass, a phenomenal chef I got to work with years ago,” Chef Brad explains.  He perfected his art by doing celebrity events, being featured on national television and becoming the 2011 DC Iron Chef.

Chef Brad is technically a pastry chef, one of the few master pastry chefs out there, until his passion for the Farm to Fork movement suddenly moved him into the culinary world. “Pastry doesn’t really have the farm to fork option because it is all process this and process that, so that really moved me into the food direction,” Chef Brad says.

He was previously the Executive Chef at the Historic McFarland House but after being burnt out on the wedding scene he decided to take a break. Chef Brad took some time off to enjoy his life, work on a farm and raise some cows. About a year and a half went by until he met up with The Peppermill’s owner, Dan Dulyea, who was looking for an executive chef for his restored fine dining restaurant and the rest is history.

A fire happened in the middle of the building, causing the previous owner to sell it. That’s when Dan stepped in, bought it, restored it and created The Peppermill to what it is today. The 1885 Victorian blue and maroon colored restaurant stands out from the other buildings on the street because of the tasteful style and colors. The Peppermill is filled with smaller rooms with three to five tables in each room making the atmosphere more intimate. There is a small bar on the first floor along with outdoor seating on the patio. Upstairs holds a different atmosphere with a rare speakeasy available serving a lighter fare than the downstairs area.

When Chef Brad came to The Peppermill he had an idea in mind to switch up the menu a bit. Chef Brad is not a big fan of “frou-frou” foods. He likes hearty food with 6 to 7 ingredients or less. “I like food that isn’t really tampered with. I don’t like food that looks like someone had their fingers on it for 20 minutes propping it up,” Brad explains. And who would right? One of the things Executive Chef Brad changed in the kitchen is moving towards super fresh ingredients that are cooked very simply.

“People want to go out to eat and they want something amazing, but at the same time they want to feel like it’s of value,” Chef Brad explains.

Dan Dulyea and Chef Brad have worked together to make The Peppermill into the successful restaurant it is now by having a little bit of both, the hearty foods and the fine dining into one. They have put together a vintage fine dining feel to the restaurant, which includes the classic fine dining dishes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, paired with classic cocktails that adults of all ages would enjoy.

The most popular dish at The Peppermill is the filet, “We do our filet right,” Chef Brad states. It is a mouth watering USDA prime beef tenderloin and dry aged for 30 days. “Right now we’re doing a pepper crusted filet, so it is crusted in pepper, pan seared and finished with rosemary butter.” Chef Brad serves the filet with roasted forest mushroom and cognac sauce. All of the entrees are served on a giant, natural piece of black slate too.

Executive Chef Brad’s favorite item on the menu right now is a 14 oz tomahawk pork chop with the bone still sticking out of it, served with a summer cream corn. “I think it’s the best dish on the menu by far,” Chef Brad says.

“As far as reviews, people come here just for our bread,” Chef Brad says. This is where his love for pastry comes out. The kitchen makes all their bread from scratch. Chef Brad makes baguettes, focaccia, and pumpernickel to name a few. For Sunday brunch the kitchen makes homemade biscuits and doughnuts. “I’m a big bread snob,” Chef Brad laughs.

Not only does The Peppermill have an excellent Executive Chef, but also a gifted sous chef, Alexander Lubel, who has been with the kitchen since The Peppermill first opened their door. “The guy has serious talent, within the next few years he will being going places,” Chef Brad proudly says. “For a young guy, he’s as talented as they come.”

One of the things that really makes The Peppermill stand out is their speakeasy on the second floor of the restaurant. “Dan and I want the speakeasy to be more laid back, where you can come at the end of the day, have something to drink, have something small to eat and relax,” Chef Brad explains. The speakeasy menu is less fine dining and more laid back.

One of Chef Brad’s favorite things to cook, and eat, are northern Italian foods and he makes a delicious dish for the upstairs menu. The dish is made from day old baguettes, sliced thick, then dredged in garlic, eggs and panko breadcrumbs, deep fried and then covered in mozzarella and marinara.

Along with the speakeasy food menu, Dan Dulyea’s goal is to have plenty of different choices of bourbon, scotch, wines and beers for his customers. They have an extensive wine list for all the wine lovers out there and the best bourbon selection within a hundred miles of Martinsburg. “You can come here and get a $5 shot of bourbon or a $50 shot,” Brad continues. “We’re slowly upping the scotch game. In the next six months we are going to have all the major whiskeys from the $1000 bottles to the $30 bottles.”

Dan and a good friend of his worked on creating an old fashion for the speakeasy but it’s a twist on the classic. What makes this drink special is the burning oak wood smoking glass it comes in. The Peppermill wants to make sure their customers have plenty to choose from when it comes to their drink list.

Executive Chef Brad Spates’s love for cooking started when he would watch Julia Child’s cooking show hours on end and received an Easybake oven for Christmas when he was six. As he got older he crafted that love into a successful career of working with famous chefs and becoming an executive chef himself. “Food is a chef’s medium. It is what we do. With out it I think all chefs are slightly lost.”

The Peppermill is open Wednesday to Saturday with lunch and dinner hours, plus Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm.

200 W Burke Street, Martinsburg, WV

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