By Micha Green, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
When sitting down at Home Maid, 1400 Key Highway, diners are transported from an affluent Baltimore neighborhood, to the dining room of a loved one’s home in the South, where everything is freshly made, the food is perfectly seasoned with a Southern spice and the environment is warm and cozy. The added plus of Home Maid is that with the good cuisine comes a helpful lesson in economic empowerment in the Black community.
“We build wealth and we create entrepreneurship here. So beyond the restaurant, it’s more of an institution, where young Black and Brown men and women come and learn how to be entrepreneurs from the bottom all the way to the top,” said Derrick Faulcon, owner of Home Maid, who co-founded the business with his brother Justin.
Established in 2014 in Towson, Md., with a store in Federal Hill, food trucks, and plans to open a vegan donut shop as well as other restaurants in Mount Vernon and D.C., Home Maid is a model of how Black businesses can be successful when there’s a good idea, sharp business acumen, a solid scaling plan and emphasis on people of color sticking together.
“For example we started in 2014… when we first came in here it was a mixed-use space with two apartments above us, and through our time, we were able to establish enough money to acquire the space,” Faulcon explained in an exclusive interview at the restaurant. “So now we don’t have any bills. So being able to scale our brands in the Black and Brown culture is the most important thing. It extends beyond what we sell, and it goes to more of a purpose of what we do.”
“The undertone to what we do is very unfamiliar in the culture- which is young Black men, sticking together, no experience, being in a space where we’re building out a brand in an industry where the odds are against you,” Faulcon added.
“We own everything. We control everything,” the formerly convicted felon turned entrepreneur said.
That ownership mindset is what Faulcon stresses to his staff, leading to some employees becoming owners in the Home Maid business.
Executive Chef Randy Bropleh, was hired as helm of the kitchen in his mid-twenties and is an owner of one of the restaurant’s food trucks. Bropleh treated the AFRO with a delicious tasting of the menu, yet he and Faulcon said that Home Maid is more than the tasty cuisine.
“Beyond the meal that [Bropleh is] presenting today, he’s also a good paradigm for when you build and scale out a brand organically and within the culture,” Faulcon explained.
“So when Randy came on, he didn’t have the experience of running a whole entire restaurant and then running a food truck. But as you guys see we have the food truck outside, we have the brick and mortar here, and the third piece is the real estate. So we’ve got real estate, we’ve got a business and we also have a mobile service to get to you,” the owner added.
Part of why there are so many moving pieces to the Home Maid brand is because Faulcon understands the importance of accessibility in the restaurant industry- particularly when considering the Black community.
“Accessibility is key in African American culture, because there are no Black Five-Star restaurants if you look around. Typically it’s a mom and pop sort of thing,” Faulcon said. “Our goal is to touch our customers in different types of ways- that makes the brand very relatable but also very approachable. So if you want to come into the space and you want to dine and pay $25 for you and your husband, or you wanted to get a food truck and get a lemonade for $4, it’s accessible.”
The accessible cuisine appeals to the taste buds of both the highbrow foodie and the average person who enjoys good, well-seasoned food made with love food.
Take the “Down and Dirty,” served for brunch, which Bropleh described as, “blackened shrimp, Andouille sausage, our tri-colored peppers, accompanied by our yellow stone grits and our homemade sauce.” The “Down and Dirty,” is presented with aesthetics in mind, highlighting the bright colors found in shrimp, grits and peppers, while the flavor profile pays homage to the bold nature of Southern cuisine.
“This is a New Orleans style dish. If you’re familiar with the culture there, Andouille sausage and blackened shrimp and grits is a huge part of what they eat,” Bropleh said.
His inspiration for the dish and other items on the Home Maid menu comes from having spent extended time in New Orleans, according to the young chef, who went to Grambling State University in Louisiana.
“My first time ever having it was in New Orleans. I lived down there for four or five years. I got a lot of culinary experience down there- that’s kind of what led me into cooking long term,” he said. “Also the Home Maid House Sauce is a Cajun Béchamel sauce, which is also inspired by the South.
Despite the Home Maid crew being from Baltimore, “a lot of the things we do here are inspired by the South,” Bropleh explained.
The executive chef has mastered and put his own tasty twist to other Southern staples such as super-sized, soft “Honey Butter Biscuits,” with”very berry compote,” French toast with Challah bread and plantain, and a fried chicken sandwich with bacon and egg and a side of sweet potatoes that puts Popeye’s infamous sandwich to shame.
With five years under Home Maid’s belt, Faulcon attributes the success of the restaurant to a business model with a rhyme.
“Instead of fail we scale; but you scale through a sound business model,” he said.
“It’s an 80 percent failure rate. This is what I know about restaurants, if a restaurant opens across the street, there’s an eight out of 10 chance it’s going to close. If it’s a minority owned restaurant in a White community- like we are- the chances are less than one percent. If you put a minority in a White community and you don’t give him any partners and any experience, then he’s deemed to fail. Well we’ve kind of turned that situation around,” Faulcon said. “So the business model is what leaves us here.”
Chef Bropleh is also passionate about the scaling business model and excited about the expansion of the Home Maid brand and its future.
“If you look at the industry, people don’t move this fast, so by the end of next year, we’ll have five stores, two trucks. [We’re] just trying to maintain the momentum. From D.C. it’s L.A.,” he said with a big smile.
As owner of Home Maid, Faulcon stresses the importance of looking beyond restaurant recognition and accolades, and tells his employees and business partners to think about the bigger picture and impact of the work they are doing.
“I always tell my staff, we might not make the newspaper, but we’re going to make the history books. So that’s the most important thing for us.”