Thursday, September 3, 2015

Interview with Eric Tanaka, Executive Chef of TanakaSan (Tom Douglas Restaurants)

The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Eric Tanaka, Partner/Executive Chef of TanakaSan (Tom Douglas Restaurants)

 

Eric Tanaka is well known as partner and executive chef ​of Tom Douglas Restaurants, based in Seattle, Washington.  The restaurant group's restaurants range in cuisine style from Italian and Greek-inspired, to Pacific Rim, and the Dalia Lounge in Belltown was the first Tom Douglas Restaurant, opening in 1994.

Creating fun concepts that can both stand alone and fit within a group is an art, and doing so quickly and efficiently while keeping everything steady is Chef Tanaka’s expertise. He is a major contributor to the success that has been Tom Douglas restaurants since he began working for the company in 1997. This has led to the opening of his own restaurant, TanakaSan, within the Tom Douglas family, in 2013.

Located inside of Belltown’s Assembly Hall, TanakaSan is described by Tanaka as an American Asian restaurant. The concept is both high-energy and casual. Sit at the counter and watch the action while enjoying the delicious and eclectic menu, which is greatly inspired by the food that Tanaka grew up on as a Japanese-American in Los Angeles, CA.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
Historically, I don’t find that there is a Northwest cuisine, but more an ethos. That ethos, centered on the amazing seafood, foraged jewels and small ranched or farmed products, results in a diversity of personally tinged cuisine. So to me, the Northwest ethos is about telling your personal chef story through the regional goods of the Northwest. The Northwest cuisine ethos isn’t hampered by a strict set of rules or ideas that need to be followed in order to be considered “Northwest Cuisine”.

Modern French food had an identity crisis and cuisine evolved. The French, mired in tradition, fell by the way side in regards to what was cool, hot and interesting. This identity crisis has led to a non-traditional bistro movement and has re-invigorated the idea of what is French cuisine. Northwest cuisine, which to me hasn’t had an identity, is growing and evolving into itself as we speak.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors, whether farms and ranches or hot-sauce, salt, or olive-oil producers?
Prosser Farm— Our farm, in its eighth season, produced around 55,000 pounds of produce for our restaurants.
Big Barn Farm— Located in Sequim, they produce unique Andean root crops.
Jacobsen Sea Salt— A wonderful Oregon salt company.
Bonache hot sauce— A tiny hot sauce maker in Ballard.
Appel Farms— They're a small cheese maker, and I love their paneer.
Big Gin— A Ballard micro-distiller bringing big flavor to the gin world.

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
My favorites for a nice meal are Brimmer and Heeltap in Ballard and Monsoon in Capital Hill.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Two chefs that I admire are Bruce Naftaly and Melissa Nyfeler. They both had highly curated visions for their restaurants, and they stuck to it.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
I personally feel that The Pacific Northwest gets a lot of media coverage.  We’re no New York by any means, but for the size that we are, we get a ton.

6. Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you?
What excites me most is the diversity and plethora of restaurants in the city. First and foremost, I love to eat, and there are more options than ever as a diner.  Whether you go downtown or in a neighborhood, there’s going to be a joint that fits your fancy. As far as what I’m most excited about, it’s cooking with my son, who’s taking an interest. We’ll smoke some ribs and make ramen for the Super Bowl. My son will make the dashi, and we’ll team up to make the broth.

Tanaka San
2121 6th Ave Seattle, WA
206.812.8412

Monday, August 31, 2015

Interview with Allen Routt, Owner and Executive Chef of The Painted Lady

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The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Allen Routt, Owner and Executive Chef of The Painted Lady and Owner of Storss Barbecue



Chef Allen Routt and his wife Jessica Bagley opened The Painted Lady restaurant in Newberg in the Willamette Valley in 2005, and with it, they brought haute cuisine to Oregon. Chef Routt worked beneath Chef Patrick O'Connell, who is famous for serving incredibly complex, refined dishes in the intimate and colonial setting of Inn at Little Washington, and the experience fomented Routt's culinary goals.

The Painted Lady combines a historical setting and level of service difficult to find anywhere in the Northwest with astonishingly delectable, worldly dishes. The restaurant is located inside of an early 1900s Victorian home on a sleepy, wine-country-town street, and Routt's dishes feature wildly meticulous preparations that attest to his hard-won inspiration from global cuisine. To balance his love of refined dining and country living, Chef Routt opened a casual barbecue joint, Storss Barbacue (also in Newberg), in 2014. The pinot-noir barbecue sauce is not to be missed.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

Having lived and worked throughout most of our country, Northwest cuisine, to me, is signified more than anywhere else by terrior. Nowhere else has such a long-standing tradition of farmers markets and vegetables and fruit stands. In addition, a lesser-known attribute about Oregon is the broad diversity of the growing region—the wide variety of products that are specific to Oregon. Additionally, Oregon farmers grow fruits and vegetables, such as wasabi, that are commonly only grown in select areas of the world.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?
                                                                       
Nevor Shellfish, for oysters and clams.                                                                                               
Canby Prawns                                                                                                                                    
Frog Eyes, for their wasabi.                                                                                                                       
Sudan, for lamb.                                                                                                                                   
Chickadee Farm                                                                                                                        
Cow Bell Cheese Co

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

I have always loved the theater of a well-orchestrated dining experience. It’s difficult to find restaurants in the Northwest that will serve a multi-course, extended dining experience, without decisions, accompanied by appropriate wine and beverages.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?                                                                                                           
Chef Tony Demes, formally of Noisette, and Chef Murata of Murata Restaurant— Both for their skill level and dedication to the craft of cooking.

5. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
                                                                                                                                     
I get really excited about the opportunities to work with a whole new generation of small farmers and producers. It’s exciting and fun to be in an agriculture area that produces world-class wines and world-class produce in our backyard. Also, having gone through really big growths and changes in the last year, it’s exciting to work with young energetic growers who are excited about their products.

The Painted Lady Restaurant
201 S. College Street
Newberg, OR 97132
www.thepaintedladyrestaurant.com

Friday, August 28, 2015

Interview with David Gunawan, Executive Chef of Farmer’s Apprentice

--> The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Photo by Carlo Ricci
David Gunawan, Executive Chef of Farmer’s Apprentice

The name says it all. Opened in 2013, Farmer's Apprentice almost exclusively uses hyper-local ingredients, and Chef David Gunawan is inspiring diners and colleagues alike with his dedication to supporting local farms and farmlands.

It takes an environmentalist's appreciation of agriculture to understand how Chef Gunawan's version of farm-to-table dining is unique. It's the little things. For instance, he features meat from heritage breeds of pig to offer diners compelling flavors, and in so doing, he is simultaneously championing non-industrial pig breeds for future generations of chefs. These breeds of pig cost more, but surprisingly, Farmer's Apprentice is able to maintain mid-range prices for diners. Chef Gunawan would rather buy whole pigs and butcher them in-house than buy lesser breeds to reduce costs. Farmer's Apprentice is dedicated to sustainability and flavor over cutting corners. Before opening Farmer's Apprentice, Chef Gunawan cooked at In De Wulf in Belgium (one Michelin star); West; and Wildebeest.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

I think Northwest cuisine is broad. Northern California, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver each have their own identity. As a whole, we Vancouverites aren’t as strong in the farmer-chef relationship. We see a much stronger bond in Portland, and the unity of trust between farmer and chef down south is far more dedicated to the farm-to-table movement.

The Vancouver market is dictated by financial incentive for obvious reasons. The Portland style of restaurant is more based on austerity. The city also boasts a very dynamic subversive counter culture. Portland is an ecologically aware city. Sustainable farm-to-table cuisine is almost expected. The city boasts the most college-educated populous in the entire nation.

Seattle is guided by the standard of a large metropolis. It is a little more diverse than Portland, and there are a few lavish establishments to cater to the growing tech industry. It has a stronger Japanese influence than Portland. The food is still very much market-driven, as most cities are in the Northwest. Seattle is a very left wing city, and again, they also have a very strong chef and farmer relationship.

Vancouver is unique due to its ethnic diversity, especially the historical contributions made by Chinese and Japanese immigrants. As a small city, we seem to support an exorbitant amount of chain restaurants, and this makes it very difficult for an aspiring small-business owner to start a venture without a lot of capital. Hence, Vancouver cuisine is very safe, ubiquitous and predictable. We are less subversive. We have amazing Asian restaurants that are comparable in quality to those in Hong Kong, China, India and the like, but drawing from so many cultures has created a Vancouver menu that I think is confused in some ways. We have no adherence to one culture but, rather, many cultures. 

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Solefood, for the quality of produce as well as its community initiatives.
Foxglove Farm— Michael Ableman is the pioneer of urban agriculture and also an author and a teacher in ecology. His produce is phenomenal. It is grown with intelligent care and intention.
Stein Mountain Farm Oreganics and Sapo Bravo Organics in Lytton, for all around solid produce grown with love and respect.
Outlandish Shellfish— They have amazing shellfish selections
Wu Wan Wo— This is my latest discovery: a phenomenal soy sauce from Taiwan aged in a terra cotta clay for two years and fermented in the mountains of Taiwan. They also use the salt gathered from the deep sea off of the coast of Taiwan.

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

I love Long Noodle House on Main and 33rd.
Dynasty Seafood Restaurant on Willow and Broadway is also very good.
I love Maebam, as well as Nook Restaurant— both in my neighbourhood.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?

Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene. He understands vegetables and the quality of each ingredient. 

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

Chinese. I think we devalue Chinese food and do not recognize the complexity and history of Chinese food. It is a very intricate and delicate cuisine, especially real Cantonese food. 

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

I think the term Northwest cuisine is very ambiguous. Every region has its own style, depending on the demographic and what the geography encompasses. Currently, we are fermenting and preserving a lot of things. I would like to serve more fish, after being in Japan. We do not have the same diversity in our seafood as Japan.

Farmer's Apprentice
1535 W 6th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6H 3G1
Canada
www.farmersapprentice.ca

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Interview with Andrea Carlson, Executive Chef of Burdock and Co.

--> The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Andrea Carlson, Executive Chef of Burdock and Co.

Chef Andrea Carlson is a chef who helped make locavore dining affordable in Vancouver. Originally from Toronto, she didn't spend much time in the kitchen as a kid, but upon purchasing a New York Times cookbook at the age of 13, she was hooked. After graduating from Dubrulle Culinary School, she cooked at Raincity Grill, Sooke Harbour House, and Bishop's, and in these establishments, she learned just how many delicious things grow within a hundred miles of the Vancouver. Chef Carlson quickly developed lasting relationships with farmers, both near Vancouver and in downtown itself.

In 2013, she opened Burdock and Co. with the goal of serving seasonal, locally inspired dishes for mid-market prices. The B.F.C. Spicy Burdock Fried Chicken, which comes with crunchy, house-made kimchi, is $16, and the Crispy Pig Face Ramen, which touts a smoked chili broth, is $14. Chef Carlson continues to find inspiration for her dishes through her obsession with gardening and taking long hikes just outside of Vancouver.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

I think Northwest cuisine has a rich diversity of offerings. We have a temperate climate, abundant natural landscapes and access to ocean and lakes. Our palates have matured, and cultural influences have further shaped our coastal identity. The locavore movement has grown our knowledge of foraging and local product, and we have countless culinary resources available to us. Chefs are making the best use of all that we have.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Mikuni Wild Harvest
Hazelmere Organic Farm— Naty King runs one of BC's oldest organic farms, and she has an eye toward working directly with chefs to provide excellent products.
Urban Digs— One of the many new small urban farms who, in addition to veggies, raise ethical meats. They also offer an innovate 'beastie box' C.S.A., which we sell at our sister shop, Harvest Community Foods Grocer.
Glorious Organics— They have long set the standard for the finest organic produce and gorgeous flowers, roots and everything in-between.
SOLEfood Farm— An innovation and socially responsible Vancouver Downtown East Side urban agriculture project. They provide job training and employment to folks in the neighbourhood with barriers to employment, as well as access to fresh food. 
East Van Roasters­— 8

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

I'm really enjoying Ask For Luigi's. It's a really beautiful, intimate spot for delicious pastas.
Vij's is a vancouver classic, serving always excellent Indian food with exceptional service.
Cinara— Chef Lukas's recently opened Italian restaurant. I've had some outstanding dishes there.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?

Robert Belcham— He's an amazing chef and mentor. His restaurant Campagnolo has long had the strongest charcuterie program in town, and his down-to-earth nature makes him an inspiring business leader as well. 

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

I think we have a strong naturopathic and holistic community in the area. I think our health-conscious community would benefit from greater influence from cooks in these fields. I also think that we need to continue to have a greater spotlight on sustainability, especially oceans. It cannot be emphasized enough. 

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

Product Diversity. I get excited looking at the potential for creating different product lines, whether it's gluten free bread or a tasty nougat. We're seeing a tonne of new local food startups, and it's giving consumers delectable choices they've never had before. Beyond knowing your farmer at the market, now you can know the origin of your sea chi (kelp kim chi) and freshly brewed ginger beer. 

Burdock and Co.
2702 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5T 3E8
Canada
http://burdockandco.com/

Monday, August 24, 2015

Interview with Stephanie Kimmel, Executive Chef of Marché

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The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Stephanie Kimmel, Executive Chef of Marché and Owner of Marché Provisions, Marché Museum Cafe, and Route 5 NW Wine Bar


A pioneer of seasonal, sustainable, and local cuisine in the Pacific Northwest, Chef Stephanie Kimmel opened her first restaurant, Excelsior Café, in Eugene, Oregon, in 1972. With just nine tables, it blended Eugene's free-wheelin' philosophy with just a touch of class, thanks to Chef Kimmel's knowledge of French cooking techniques. But it was Chef Kimmel's simple obsession with exceptionally delicious things that really made the difference, and Excelsior Café is credited for a number of Oregon firsts: It was the first Oregon restaurant to serve Oregon-made wines; bake traditional French baguettes; and serve espresso from a bona fide espresso machine.

In 1998, Chef Kimmel opened Marché, Eugene's preeminent fine-dining restaurant. Her kitchen ethos remains the same: Prepare seasonal dishes with a nod toward classic, French cuisine, and even if no two nights' menus are the same, make sure that all of the dishes come bearing exceptional flavors. In addition to Marché, Chef Kimmel owns Marché Provisions, Marché Museum Cafe, and Route 5 NW Wine Bar.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

Today's Northwest cuisine is ingredient-driven and sensitive to seasonal ebb and flow, with a simplicity and sense of place made possible by the growing abundance of super-local ingredients from the ocean, forests, farms, ranches, orchards, dairies and vineyards of our region. Historically, there has always been a pride in our amazing natural resources. I'm thinking of the chowder houses and crab shacks on the coast; berry festivals and seasonal truck farms in the Willamette Valley; the orchard fruit of southern Oregon and eastern Washington; and the melons, cattle and grains east of the Cascades. Ironically though, past restaurants tended to import their ingredients from all over, regardless of season, and the techniques used in the kitchen were either "fancy" and continental, or ultra casual diner-style. There really wasn't an identifiable Northwest cuisine. Fortunately, all that has changed over the last thirty-to-forty years—at first slowly, then picking up speed in the last decade or two—bringing us to the explosion of awareness of our local bounty that we see today.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?   

 Groundwork Organics, for their commitment to providing a year-round supply of exquisite and carefully harvested vegetables, including many heirloom varieties, both to the back door of the restaurant and regional farmer's markets.

Long's Meat Market is a real old-fashioned butcher shop, brokering a full range of sustainably raised meat and poultry from the region, including Knee Deep Farm, Tails & Trotters, Laughing Stock Farm, and Anderson Ranch.

Mycological Natural Products, for foraged truffles and wild mushrooms, both fresh and dried.

Our wonderful local fishermen from Brandywine Fisheries, who bring us black cod and Dungeness crab in the winter, and albacore, halibut and salmon from spring to late fall.

Juniper Grove Farm (Redmond), Ancient Heritage Creamery (Madras and newly in Portland), and Rogue Creamery (Central Point) are amazing producers of authentic, traditional cheeses with gorgeous texture and flavor.

Jacobsen Salt Company— I'm just excited that Ben Jacobsen had the vision to launch this project harvesting salt from the cold waters of the Pacific and drying it naturally. He's producing a fabulous finishing sal, on a par with the great salts of the world. I also admire the related products they are coming up with, from a huge variety of salts flavored with iconic Oregon ingredients (pinot noir, Stumptown coffee, white truffle) to caramels and licorice.

Oregon Olive Mill— It's so fun to see this classically Mediterranean ingredient flourishing in Oregon! We've loved the opportunity to serve it to our guests in Route 5 and to have it on the shelves in Provisions.    

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?    

In Eugene, our go-to is Thai food at Sabai or Mexican street-food at Plaza Latina. In Ashland, I always enjoy Amuse, as well as New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in nearby Talent (they have an outstanding wine list). In Portland, some of my favorites are Castagna, Ava Gene's, Bar Avignon and Little Bird.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire? Why?

I love Cathy Whims of Nostrana in Portland, for her deep knowledge of the authentic flavors and techniques of Italy. I also greatly admire John Sundstrom of Lark in Seattle for his connection to the resources of that sub-region and the care that goes into the execution of the plates at his restaurant. They share an entreprenurial spirit that lends vitality and longevity to their expanding enterprises.

5.  In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?   

I think there is a huge opportunity to explore the areas outside of over-exposed Portland and Seattle—to look at the unique ingredients, artisan producers, wineries and chefs that are flourishing there. There is so much to be learned, to be tasted and to be explored in every corner of this region: a truly northwest terroir.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?     

As consumers demand access to and want to support more local food, I see the use of Northwest products spreading from the restaurants that identify specifically as farm-to-table to casual spots, such as ethnic restaurants and direct-to-consumer groceries and markets. At Marché, we will remain focused on our core mission of celebrating local ingredients at their peak in the market. We will always be on the lookout for talented new farmers and producers. And we will make sure we continue to train and mentor our staff so that our passion and enthusiasm is carried on into the future.

Marché
296 East Fifth Avenue
Eugene, Oregon 97401
www.marcherestaurant.com

Monday, August 17, 2015

Interview with Gregory Gourdet, Executive Chef of Departure Restaurant and Lounge

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The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Gregory Gourdet, Executive Chef of Departure Restaurant and Lounge

In 2010, Chef Gregory Gourdet joined the swank Departure Restaurant and Lounge, located on the 15th floor of The Nines Hotel in Portland. A celebrity chef who competed in the most recent season of Bravo's Top Chef, Chef Gourdet is known as much for his personality as for his cooking, but how much of a difference is there between the two? Like Gourdet himself, his dishes buzz with energy thanks to a potent blend of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Chef Gourdet unleashes pan-Asian dishes, with the occasional nod to his Haitian heritage, and he dedicates himself to staying up to date with what his diners need; this includes a regularly updated, healthy selection of paleo, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian-friendly plates. Chef Gourdet began his career working beneath New York-superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

Northwest cuisine is 100% inspired by the amazing bounty of our region. From our farms, woods, mountains and oceans we grow delectable products year-round, and this defines how we cook. We have iconic, historical and region-defining ingredients, from Dungeness crab and salmon, to mushrooms, berries and game meats, and these are just the beginning. The food ranges from simple to bold, but it is a cuisine that lets these ingredients shine.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Nicky USA- All chefs rely on our friends at this great distributer and farm. The service is personalized and the 25-year history of the company shows. They proudly raise and source game meats for kitchens all over town.

Groundwork Organics Farm- This is the first farm that I formed a relationship with when I moved to Oregon six years ago. They carry an array of essential seasonal vegetables throughout the year, and they are at farmers markets year-round.

Marshall’s Hot Sauce- Their sauces are artisan made, specifically using local farm-sourced ingredients and chilies, and they are cooked with time and hand-bottled one by one. I love these sauces for their bright kick. Sarah and Dirk are some of the nicest people around, and the two of them touch each and every bottle they produce.

Oregon Olive Mill- They provide Oregon-made olive oil in an array of flavors, from fruity to peppery and in between.

Flying Fish Company- It's a one-stop for all sustainable seafood needs. Lyf personally takes care of every order and has a great pulse on the freshest catch around, from the Northwest and beyond.

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

I go to Ox and Ava Gene’s. They both serve really amazing vegetables, and I love that. Greg and Gabi Denton roast most of the vegetables at Ox over a wood-burning grill. They are deeply flavored and delicious. Joshua McFadden highlights farm produce in a bright and fun way. Eating at Ava Gene’s, there will be a moment when you realize you just ate 15 types of vegetables and they were all great. These are both warm and cozy restaurants, as well as perfect locations for a nice night out.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire? Why?

I have the utmost admiration and respect for Andy Ricker, the man behind the Pok Pok empire. He is doing something very unique, in the sense that he is bringing a very different cuisine and culture to the states and trying to do so in the most authentic way possible. Doing everything you can to recreate a time and place is very noble. He doesn’t call himself a chef because he doesn’t cook from imagination but instead tries to recreate an exact standard. It is a very different approach and produces delicious results.

I also have great admiration for Vitaly Paley. He owns one of the most iconic Portland institutions, Paley’s Place, with a burgeoning second, Imperial. His restaurants are shrines to the ingredients that make the Northwest great. Cooking method and technique are also of utmost importance to him, and his restaurants are a stomping ground for young chefs looking to work towards becoming a great Portland chef. Many of the best chefs in this town have worked for Vitaly during their career. The man is also tireless, doing pop-ups and events non-stop, nationwide.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

I think there are many chefs doing amazing international cuisine in the Northwest. These chefs are pairing our amazing products, such as fish and meats, in specifically ethnic preparations. The other part of this story is farmers and chefs leading the charge in the local growth of international vegetables. I love finding Oregon-grown ginger, turmeric and wasabi root at my market. This is an important story. As more things become accessible to us due to modern times, and more cultures become a part of our culture, we have to look around to keep things fresh and forward.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
I feel the possibilities of what we can grow and produce here are endless. The Northwest is a lush place full of green vitality and hope. Of all the people I have met recently, the young, new farm-owners have inspired me the most. Farming is really hard work, and it really takes a love of the land and nature to work on one. The quest to grow your own is noble and needed. I am very excited to continue to build a closer relationship with the ingredients in my backyard—both plants and animals—that are grown by friends.

Departure Restaurant and Lounge
525 SW Morrison Street
Portland, Oregon 97204
www.departureportland.com

Friday, August 14, 2015

Interview with Idaho Chef Steve Topple of The Narrows

The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Chef Steve Topple of Whitetail Club’s Fish and Swim Club and Shore Lodge, which include The Narrows, the Lake Grill, Narrows Grill, and The Cove

Chef Steve Topple, Executive Chef of The Narrows

Born in England, Chef Steve Topple took his first cooking job in North America in 1999 at the age of 24, and he hasn't slowed down since. He's cooked in New York, South Carolina, San Francisco, Colorado, and Georgia, and today, he oversees five kitchens between the Whitetail Club and its sister property, the Shore Lodge, both located in McCall, Idaho.

Chef Topple fuses frontier-style cooking with the techniques and flavors he discovered and developed while cooking around the world. For instance, at The Narrows restaurant, Chef Topple serves Local Idaho Trout Chowder and steaks from Eastern Washington, but you'll also find Maine Lobster Linguine and Seared Georges Bank Scallops on the menu. Chef Topple's mastery of a wide set of cooking techniques makes him one of Idaho's most boundary-pushing chefs.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

Like the region itself, the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest is best defined as rustic yet refined. Many people think meat and potatoes, but it’s so much more. Even hearty dishes enjoy elegant preparations, thanks to our abundance of fresh ingredients. Bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east, I enjoy working with both authentic regional produce and local ingredients found less than 100 miles away, such as huckleberries and morel mushrooms; apples and pears; local Northwest beef and Lava Lake lamb; Pacific salmon and trout; and potatoes, hazelnuts and truffles. This area boasts so many exclusive delicacies that allow me to highlight truly native flavors, and they are unique in every season. 

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Double R Ranch and Snake River Farms standout for the most amazing and truly Northwest beef.
For Pacific Northwest seafood and shellfish, I turn to Ocean Beauty.
Fresh and Wild, as the name implies, is my go-to source for local Northwest mushrooms.
And you cannot beat the local produce sourced by family-owned and operated Grasmick Produce.

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

I must admit that I frequent our restaurants at Shore Lodge a lot. In Boise, I enjoy visiting
Fork and The Dish. When I travel to Washington and Oregon, I must get to a few of my
favorite spots, like Lola in Seattle, or Pok Pok, Imperial, and Tasty n Alder in Portland.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?

Chef Tom Douglas of Seattle is by far one of my favorite chefs in the Northwest. For more
than 25 years, his passion for regional cuisine and restaurant concepts and his continued success has drawn well-deserved attention to the region. It's earned him two James Beard Awards.

Chef Vitaly Paley is another chef I follow and look up to. He has taken the Portland culinary scene by storm, and he owns one of my favorite restaurants, Imperial.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough
attention?

While Portland and Seattle’s culinary scenes have become media darlings, the great restaurants of Idaho have not received the same attention… yet! Most people are not aware of the great dining destinations in McCall, Hailey or Boise. Pair innovative restaurants such as The Narrows in McCall, C.K.’s Real Food in Hailey and Juniper on 8th in Boise with the stunning surroundings, limitless outdoor adventures and undisputable charm of these Idaho towns, and you’d be hard-pressed to replicate our incredible vacation experience elsewhere.

6. Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you? What are
you most excited to do in the kitchen?

Diners have really embraced the fresh, seasonal and local cuisine of the Pacific Northwest.
With so much to play with in the region, I’m most excited to continue to introduce our guests to new and unexpected preparations of the ingredients that are found right in our, and their, backyards. I do a lot of research to constantly refresh my menu, and I am eager to create new dishes with hyper-local ingredients. Right now, I’m working with Northwest buffalo from right here in McCall. I'm also working with Crane Farms for fresh vegetables and herbs from right down the road in Riggins, Idaho.