August 25, 2014

MASTERS OF THEIR CRAFT | THE MASONS : RESTAURATEURS | MA(I)SON, LANCASTER PA

Our Masters of Their Craft series is monthly features where we give a glimpse into the life, vision, and work of artists, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, musicians, business owners, innovators, and fellow dreamers who excel in their area of expertise. They use their gifting with passion and excellence. Their work is tried and true. By sharing these innovators with others who we know will value the labor of their hands as much as we do, we aim to make a humble attempt at giving them honor.

Be sure you don’t miss the AMAZING GIVEAWAY the Masons are generously providing at the end of the post!! It is incredible…you want to win this one, believe me.

Team member Karen is the vision and hands behind these special posts…she will take it from here.

THE MASONS : RESTAURATEURS

Taylor and Leeann Mason, a young husband and wife team, are not merely restaurateurs or entrepreneurs; they are artisans, who have established an urban, farm-driven cookery in the heart of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Every facet of their restaurant exudes precision, deep thought, and creative genius—from the name to the atmosphere to the seasonal menu to the edible plants used to add just that right touch of flavor. When stepping into their restaurant, you step into the old world of a French or Italian village where life slows and food nourishes.

On a rather bustling Lancaster city street, sets a restaurant with a little black terrace, big doors that open to usher the outdoor air inside on warm nights, and a distressed sign on the exterior that simply states “Ma(i)son.” The concocted name plays upon the French word for house (maison) and the couple’s last name (Mason), with the idea that their eatery is literally the Mason’s house. When dining at their business, their customers dine at their home, and with their keen sense of hospitality, they share their home and their food with them.

While progressive and forward thinking, the Mason’s philosophy of food is rooted in the past. They strongly adhere to the practice of acquiring fresh, local, whole foods, thus establishing a relationship with area farmers and artisans. Their small menu changes weekly, adapting to the weather, farmers, and seasons. As the chef, Taylor uses his hands to create each dish deftly simple in order to herald the ingredients. He adds his artistic touch to the intense labor the farmers have already completed.

From the restaurant’s inception in 2011, the Masons have fused work life and real life, initially living in the apartment above the restaurant. With the birth of their dear Ella, the family moved to a larger abode away from the business as they learn to navigate parenthood; however, the intimate nature of their restaurant remains the same. Each night at Ma(i)son, Taylor and Leeann continue to welcome you to their dinner table.

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Where did the idea for Ma(i)son originate?
We had not been planning on opening a business as soon as we did.  Ma(i)son wasn’t something that we had been working on or dreamt about.  When we moved back to the East Coast after our time in California, we knew that we eventually wanted to open some sort of business centered around food and wine.  The space found us and so we put together our vision for what would work best there and created a visual representation of our philosophy on food and dining.

How long did it take your idea for the business to become reality?
Two weeks after our first walk through of the property we made an offer. We began work a couple of months later, and within six months of first stepping foot in the space, we opened to the public on July 1,  2011.

How did your vision for your business change throughout the time you first began discussing it to when the restaurant started?
Our vision for Ma(i)son didn’t change much but rather became more clearly defined.  We wanted a rustic-chic interior that evoked a cozy and welcoming ambiance.  We wanted the service to match that and be well informed and executed, but casual.  Similarly, we wanted a menu that was small and changed with the seasons, showcasing the region’s incredible bounty in a rustic way with a hint of refinement.

Tell us about your philosophy of hospitality with your restaurant.
Our philosophy in terms of hospitality at the restaurant is simple.  We want our guests to feel as if they are dining in someone’s home.  We want the food to be as if it came out of a home kitchen, cooked by family.   We want our staff to tell the story of the hard-working local farmers and artisans whose hard work went into creating their meal. When our guests leave, we want them to feel like they just left a friend’s house; had a wonderful, hyper-seasonal menu; learned something about the food or product; and can’t wait until to come back.

What are 5 of your key beliefs about food/cuisine? (or more or less!)
1. Seasonal. Always cooking what is ‘of the moment’
2. Organic practices.  Treating the land with respect.
3. Slow food. Meals should be about spending time together as a family and enjoying that hour opposed to how quickly can we cook it and eat it.
4. Italy is where Taylor’s soul is from…therefore leading him to love all Italian cuisine
5. Treating ingredients very simply.  The hard work is in the farmers’ hands, once it reaches Tays—it’s his job to not mess it up!

What has shaped/influenced the manner in which your approach food and operate your restaurant?
There have been various people in our life that have taught us key points in hospitality, i.e. details, finesse, one step ahead, etc.  But I do believe its like a sport—you’re either athletic or you’re not!

What are the aspects of Ma(i)son that you are most proud of?
We are most proud of the body of work we have curated during our three plus years of business.  We are proud of the reputation we have created, all of the friends we have made along the way, and the uncompromising way we have done it all.

What are some dreams you have for your business?
Our dream and hope from the beginning was to be known for the caliber of our cooking and hospitality than any signature dish or fancy show.  Our dreams are to continue to build upon the foundation that we have built and continue to push the culinary landscape of Lancaster.

Where/how did you learn your business skills?
During our time in Napa Valley we went through a crash course of extremely high profile hospitality.

How do you unwind?
We unwind as a family by hiking, going for a picnic, or being away (anywhere!) from the house and business.

The biggest blessings of parenthood so far…
The biggest blessing in my entire life so far is Ella.  The next biggest is that she healthy.  I don’t know how I could ask for anything else in this lifetime.

The biggest challenges of parenthood so far….
The biggest challenge of parenthood so far (9months in!) was definitely the sleep deprivation in the first 6 months.  We didn’t think Ella would ever sleep though the night or for more then 4 hours at a time. But slowly she did, and now she sleeps a solid 12 hours.  The challenge that will always be present in our life is work/family balance.

How do you balance the responsibilities of being parents and being restaurateurs, especially as you fuse “work life” and “real life”?
We know that running a restaurant is a lot of hard work and long hours and when we decided to have a family we wanted to be the one present in our child’s life. We do a lot of handoffs at around 5:00.  One of us goes home and the other goes to work!

Are there any challenges of your restaurant that you did not expect to face when you first started?
Every day there is a new challenge that we ‘didn’t expect’ when we started.  With any business it’s all about ‘managing’ mistakes and challenges …constantly.

What is most rewarding about your business? At the end of the day, what brings your satisfaction?
I think what brings us the most satisfaction is making sure people are having a good time and enjoying a lovely meal.  When they walk into Ma(i)son we want them to forget about the vigours of life and just be present.  Enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy their company whom they are with, and enjoy what they are eating.  Another aspect that we love is educating people about food.  How important it is to know where your food came from!   The grocery stores are poison- filled aisles with junk that is not good for you and especially your growing child!

How has working together strengthened and tested your relationship?
Working together has definitely done both of those things! There are times when it’s been “too” much, but that’s life and there are peaks and valleys! Overall we work well together, and it has not strained our relationship at all. We promised ourselves when we started this if our relationship starts taking a toll–we sell and move on because our marriage is more important than a restaurant.

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Taylor and Leeann are generously giving away The Tasting menu! This is valued at $100 and includes being seated at the Chef’s Table where you can watch your chefs create your beautiful dishes!  It is 4-5 courses shared…tasting a true glimpse of the season!

To enter the GIVEAWAY, please comment and answer this question: What is your favorite seasonal vegetable? Giveaway ends at midnight FRIDAY, August 29th. Winner randomly chosen and announced Saturday.

 

  1. Janelle says:

    Such great photos of a company that works so hard to create delicious food. Also that’s my fiancé in the photos, Christian! :)

  2. mego says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable lately is carrots! Yummmm

  3. Karen says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is zucchini. I’ve been dying to go to Ma(I)son!

  4. Janae says:

    What a fabulous give-away, and what fine couple. Favorite seasonal vegetable? mmm I’m going to have to go with zucchini also, especially when grilled. yummy.

  5. Aimee says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is sweet corn! I would love to win the giveaway! Ma(I)son looks like an incredible place!

  6. rosina says:

    Eggplants. Fried, roasted, baked…
    This place looks phenomenal!

  7. amanda says:

    What a wonderful family and story! Our favorite seasonable veggie is beets. Our little one gobbles them up when we roast them!

  8. Chelsea Peifer says:

    My favorite seasonal veggie is sweet corn – but everything grown in Lancaster is pretty delicious!

  9. Maggie says:

    I can’t get enough of sweet corn at this time of year! Would love to win the experience at Ma(i)son!!

  10. Crystal Wiegand says:

    Tomatoes!! Growing up, I never thought much of them. But, over the years I began to noticed how delicious they’re flavor is. Especially a good when it’s a really good tomato.

  11. Leticia says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable would be beets, but there are far too many yummy veggies to be certain. ;)

    I have only been to Ma(i)son twice since they have opened, but this is my favorite restaurant in all of Lancaster County!

  12. Megan Fisher says:

    Choose me choose me! I’ve never had the pleasure of dining at Maison, however my husband is taking me for my birthday next week, and I am so looking forward. My favorite veggie of the season is eggplant. Beautiful coverage of this family and their restaurant.

  13. Melanie says:

    Cucumbers!

  14. Debbie says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable must be tomatoes. There is nothing like an open faced tomato, mayo sandwich with some olive oil and a touch of salt in the summer!

  15. JAMES says:

    Great read. LOVE Ma(i)son. Favorite seasonal vegetable? Lancaster County Sweet Corn.

  16. Amy says:

    It’s not quite the season for them yet, but I adore Brussels sprouts! So nice to see such a lovely write-up on Taylor and Leeann–so very well deserved!

  17. Sara Pellman says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is sweet corn!

  18. Shawn says:

    Favorite seasonal vegetable: Fresh Peas

  19. Bridget says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable has to Brussel sprouts

  20. Jessica says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is zucchini. So many different ways to prepare it.

  21. Katie Worst says:

    I absolutely love grilled zucchini this time of year. Maison is by far my favorite restaurant in Lancaster :)

  22. Stephanie says:

    Brussel Sprouts! I look forward to them every year–and I look forward to eating at Ma(i)son again soon!

  23. Chelsea says:

    Heirloom tomatoes! My fiancé hated tomatoes until we came to Maison last year and he had the heirloom tomato salad and now he loves them and still tells everyone how Maison opened his eyes!

  24. Charlene says:

    Mine fave is tomatos!

  25. Erika says:

    There is nothing quite like a fresh summer tomato! Those red ripe veggies are my favorite seasonal vegetable :)

  26. Doreen Snyder says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is homegrown Arugula, it is the size of spinach, and so peppery, I just made a Turkish watermelon arugula salad that was fabulous !!!!

  27. Sara says:

    This is my favorite restaurant in Lancaster City! Favorite seasonal vegetable is tomatoes.

  28. Liz says:

    It’s been taken more than once but I have to mention it again only because it’s too delicious not to-local sweet corn. Anyway, anyhow. Simple, sweet, crunchy, delectable. Seasonal tomatoes are a close second particularly when paired with cheese, crispy bread, and drizzled with EVOO. :)

  29. Brooke says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable by far is sweet corn:) But I’m pregnant and they all are amazing !!!!

  30. Jessica says:

    My favorite veggie would have to be carrots :)

  31. Krista says:

    I love fresh green beans right from the garden!

  32. Marah says:

    Best restaurant in Lancaster!! This season I can’t get enough golden beets!

  33. LB says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is beets! I love them roasted – yum!

  34. Jessica S says:

    I love me some heirloom tomatoes! The more colorful the better! I’m giddy over the green zebra style.

  35. Rachel says:

    Asparagus and nectarines!!!

  36. Kara says:

    Sweet corn on the cob!!

  37. Stacey Gagne says:

    My favorite seasonal (summer) vegetable is tomatoes.

  38. Mitch Dissinger says:

    Favorite Summer veggie good ole sweet corn on the cob!! Would love a chance to dine here.

  39. charlie says:

    I love brussel sprouts when you can pick them right off the stalk. So fresh and tasty.

  40. Beth Stombaugh says:

    Soooo many to choose from!!! I love Swiss Chard!

  41. Ashley says:

    It’s hard to choose one veggie but I love Lima beans and fresh herbs! I’ve heard so many good things about this restaurant and would love to try it out!

  42. Chris seda says:

    Fava beans. My wife makes them and introduced them to me. Great alone or with pasta or even sea food.

  43. Sumer says:

    Hands down tomato

  44. Benjamin Russo says:

    Right now it’s tomatoes, although maybe that’s because it’s tomato season

  45. Deb Harrison says:

    Favorite summer veggie is probably sweet corn. Hard to choose, though.

  46. Sherri says:

    With so many to choose from this time of year, it’s hard to pick just one. I have to go with sweet corn….especially since I could eat it all summer long!

  47. Matt Thomas says:

    Asparagus is my favorite.

  48. Alisa B says:

    Best seasonal vegetable = Lancaster county sweet corn! I’m up for trying any veggie at Ma(I)son though!

  49. Shelby mchugh says:

    Heirloom tomatos! Ma(i) son’s dishes at all so unique. You really can taste every single ingredient layered into each bite! We love it here!

  50. Carol King says:

    This place sounds fabulous. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks Char for sharing. My favorite would be tomatoes.

  51. Bree Gillespie says:

    It’s hard to pick a favorite. Maybe tomatoes. I love eating them straight from the garden and also the many dishes you can make!

  52. marlena says:

    green beans!

  53. Jeanine says:

    Green beans!! Love them!!

  54. Beth Riley says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is whichever veg. Taylor is currently serving. His sources, sensibilities and brilliant execution ensure a profoundly enjoyable seasonal vegetable experience.

  55. Katie says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetables are kale, beets, zucchini, and tomatos! So many great ones that it is hard to just pick one!

  56. My husband and I have a huge garden and we put up a lot of what we grow for winter. One thing we do not preserve is asparagus. It is one of my favorite veggies. There is nothing that can top the first taste of warmer weather. To us, it signals the start of garden season.

  57. Erica says:

    I LOVE LOVE this restaurant and the owners. You just can’t beat it! My favorite seasonal vegetable is zucchini!

  58. Jenn says:

    Definitely zucchini! Grilled and also in my mom’s bread recipe!

  59. Courtney B says:

    My favorite seasonal veggie changes quite often, but it is currently white eggplant!

  60. Yummy, yummy, homegrown heirloom tomatoes!!! My dad’s garden has like none other!!

  61. Flo says:

    Asparagus! It’s really yummy roasted over an open fire. I enjoyed all the photos.

  62. Audrey says:

    Fresh tomatoes, it wouldn’t be summer without them!

  63. Rodley says:

    Lancaster County Corn, it’s a little more fall, but still!

  64. Audrey says:

    Definitely zucchinni, it’s so versatile, grilled, sauted or baked into bread it’s good no matter which way you do it!

  65. Lisa says:

    fresh heirloom tomatoes.. w/ fresh basil & olive oil

  66. Phil says:

    Freshly grilled asparagus with olive oil. Added bonus, it makes your pee smell funny.

  67. Emily Truman says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable.. would have to be a plump, juicy, misshapen heirloom tomato. I could eat one like an apple.

  68. Ken Siegrist says:

    Favorite Seasonal Vegetable: Hot Peppers! ( All Varieties! )

    Great photos! Anxious to return to Ma(i)son.

  69. I LOVE sweet little grape tomatoes! I love buying them at Stoners (Lancaster Central Market) in the colored variety- yellow, purple and red. I can just eat them like candy they are that good, or of course make my very favorite caprese salad. My husband Brent and I dubbed this “The Summer of Caprese Salads and Mint Mojitos.”

  70. Corey Faus says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is brussel sprouts!

  71. Paul says:

    It had to be cherry tomatoes. They define summer freshness.

  72. Paul says:

    It has to be cherry tomatoes. They define summer freshness.

  73. Kristen says:

    Love the review. Love tomatoes.

  74. Katilyn says:

    I’ve been wanting to go to this restuarant for a while now. It looks amazing!! My favorite vegetable is asparagus. I could eat it every day that it is in season & it would never get old!

  75. Judy says:

    My favorite summer vegetable is the tomato. Beautiful post!!

  76. Michelle says:

    Definitely fresh plum tomatoes turned into a rich marinara!

  77. Tammy says:

    My favorite seasonal vegetable is zucchini!

  78. Ryan Martin says:

    I gotta go with Tomatoes!

  79. sandra says:

    Just one? I’ll go with the tomato because of all the different variety of foods I love with tomatoes! Not to mention a good old BLT!

  80. Sara B says:

    Currently, my favorite seasonal vegetable is summer squash! Mmm I love all of the fresh vegetables right now! Thank you for an amazing giveaway!!

  81. Amanda G says:

    Juicy, ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden. Hands down! :)

  82. Sarah DiIorio says:

    Without a doubt my favorite restaurant in Lancaster, if not in the state. My favorite seasonal vegetable is probably sweet corn, though fava beans are a close second.

  83. Jen C says:

    Tomatoes! Love Ma(i)son and the wonderful couple behind it.

  84. Andy L. says:

    Fantastic article. Fresh sweet corn is the center of my universe during late summer.

  85. Rebecca says:

    Sweet corn and tomatoes. Can’t wait to try ma(i)son!

  86. Lydia Jo says:

    I am very impatient for my tomatoes every year! Love them.

  87. Elsa Martin says:

    Tomatoes :)

  88. Favorite season fruit is a toss up between peaches & tomatoes. Nothing much better than a fresh juicy peach, or a simple tomato salad with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. I have been anxious for my husband and I to come and experience Maison, I have heard amazing things! Fingers (and toes) crossed!

    • Char says:

      Go…even though you did not win this giveaway….still go! I agree, peaches and tomatoes both are favorites for me too.

  89. Wesley says:

    Sweet potatoes! Versatile, delicious, nutritious, colorful, inexpensive, and somehow both interesting and ordinary. What other vegetable can be a main dish, side dish, turned into a sauce, dessert (sweet potato pie, sweet potato ice cream/gelato…). Excuse me, I need to go find a sweet potato.

    • Char says:

      haha, Wesley….I loved your comment! SO true, sweet potatoes are interesting and ordinary! I love them. Scuse me too…suddenly I am craving a sweet potato.

  90. LB says:

    Good morning! I can’t seem to find who won…

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