Monday, August 3, 2015

Interview with Sunny Jin, Executive Chef of JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa

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.


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Sunny Jin, Executive Chef of JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa

Widely recognized as one of the best hotels in the United States, The Allison Inn and Spa is a top-of-the-line luxury resort in Willamette Valley, and Executive Chef Sunny Jin heads the Inn's restaurant, JORY. Chef Jin is all about developing relationships, whether with truffle-hunting neighbors or with the bees he keeps in the resort's 1.5-acre produce garden. By developing lasting relationships with Willamette Valley purveyors and only growing the vegetables and fruits that he can't find elsewhere, Chef Jin let's the bounty of the Willamette Valley dictate his menu. His approach lets ingredients sing, but this is not hands-off cooking: Chef Jin demonstrates precise, reserved modernist techniques that leave their mark. Topping dishes with a flurry of beautiful edible flowers is his calling card.

Before joining JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa in 2010, Chef Jin spent three years cooking for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry (three Michelin stars); Tetsuya's in Sydney, Australia; and for Ferran Adrià at El Bulli/elBulli (three Michelin stars) in Catalonia.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

Northwest cuisine is something we live every day. It's been occurring before any of us came into existence. I've often said that cooking is the fun part. We all know what we like to eat, and how we like to eat it. The true appreciation of a dish exists more in the understanding of the journey that the simple carrot took to end up in front of us. It's a respect for the land, and the people who tend to it. That inherent respect, coupled with ideal growing conditions, is what gives us amazing produce throughout the years and truly exemplifies Northwest cuisine.

Pacific Northwesterners are here together by choice, and naturally come together by trade. From the chicken farmer on Bell Road to the cheese maker in the hills of Dundee, we share the love of our craft and bring it to our tables.

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

Oregon Olive Mill - Something about Oregon Olive Mill makes me think of Oprah and her "favorite things" list (though I'm not going to be handing out cars anytime soon!). Not only do we use their olive oils to enhance certain dishes, but there's something to be said about using a product exclusively in your own home. It's simply an olive oil done right.

Northwest Fresh Seafood - Northwest Fresh Seafood has taken it to the next level. It's a no-brainer that being near our cold fertile waters will yield exceptional seafood, but this company has decided to take it even further and offer us direct options for our menus. It's with open enthusiasm that we are frequently allowed to tell our guests that the oysters they are about to eat came out of the water that very morning!

Misty Mountain Mushrooms - Bob Nufer, of Misty Mountain Mushrooms is one of our strongest links to the changing seasons. He's been a constant indicator of what's coming and going around our area and offers some of the best foraged products that he has even plucked from his own backyard.

Carlton Bakery - Tim and Ahmee Corrigan are some of my favorite people. You would never guess that underneath their personable demeanor and humility lives an innate talent for creating some of the best breads I have eaten. Their breads could've succeeded anywhere, and I'm happy they chose our valley as their home.

Gaining Ground Farm - Mike Paine of Gaining Ground Farm is one of our most beneficial partnerships to date. From the beginning, he has brought exceptional produce to our doors. His produce and comprehension of our seasons is so amazing that we asked him to consult us in the further development of our own garden. We dug in our heels, listened to his approach, and it has brought our direction into focus.

JL Fisher Farms - Jered Fisher is the newest farmer we have partnered with. In a short period we have built a strong foundation. We merely sit back and observe the development of the hogs—that's how well his self-critical specifications work. What his pasture-raised hogs eat and how they live are important to us, and more so to him.

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

Toro Bravo - I've been to Toro Bravo more than any other restaurant in the Portland area because of one thing: consistency. I have my staple list of tapas, and I have never been disappointed there. Great atmosphere, great food. What else do you need?!

Local Ocean Seafoods - Let's begin with a truth. I have on three separate occasions eaten there for both lunch and dinner on that same day. The menu is basic, but in the best way possible. If it's not in season, it's not on the menu. They take sustainability seriously. The majority of their seafood comes from the fleet of boats directly across the street. Gotta love the location too!

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

Jenn Louis (Sunshine Tavern, Lincoln) - I'm a big fan of her flavor combinations, and her affinity for all things offal. Jenn could easily rest on her accomplishments and live a happy life, but she continues to give to the culinary collective. I'm also a big fan of good people. She happens to be a great chef on top of that.

Vitaly Paley (Paley's Place, Imperial Restaurant) - I knew of his food and his restaurants long before I met the man himself. Vitaly Paley is one of the pioneers of Northwest cuisine. He has helped stabilize Oregon as a culinary hot spot, and has grabbed the attention of those once not familiar with our area. He is a chef who I hold in high regard because he looks to the growth of a region over his own success, and that to me is true merit.

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

The thing I admire most about cooking in the Northwest is that we embrace many facets of food. Our patrons rightfully follow those experts of their craft. That allows culinary creativity to grow from their support, and gives hard-working people a chance to sustain a living on their own terms. We rely on those individuals to elevate our own dishes. The people that gather our local salts, forage our woods, and even make our ketchup deserve the highest recognition.

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

What excites me most are the relationships developed as we move forward with each year. We talk to our farmers and strategically decide who is growing what and for what purpose. We then begin to supplement against our own garden's capacity while simultaneously supporting our neighboring farms. These farms are the quiet gears of the Pacific Northwest that keep our restaurants in motion.

JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa
2525 Allison Lane
Newberg, OR 97132
www.theallison.com/#/culinary/jory


 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Interview with Chef Scott Mechura, Executive Chef at Bucks T-4 Lodging and Dining

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 Scott Mechura, Executive Chef at Bucks T-4 Lodging and Dining

With a history dating back to 1946, Bucks T-4 Lodge is one of the most famous dining options is Montana, and the historic restaurant is known for preparing local game, such as antelope and bison, using traditional European cooking techniques. Think Cast Iron Seared Red Deer Loin with maple gratin, foraged mushroom conserva and apple jam, and Southwest Montana Raised Rainbow Trout with oyster mushrooms, creamed kale, red quinoa and lemon-sage olive oil. In addition to these game-centric dishes, Bucks T-4 Lodge also serves a host of burgers, quesadillas, and, even, bahn mi.

Executive Chef Scott Mechura heads the kitchen at Bucks T-4 Lodge. Originally from Minnesota, Chef Mechura started his career in some of Minnesota's most lauded restaurants, including Forepaughs and Aquavit, and he soon found that he could find as much inspiration from the eating habits of dishwashers and prep-cooks as he could from executive chefs. This is how he learned the complex but homey flavors of Laos and Korea, for instance, and he loves international cuisines, including Swedish, French, Thai, and Vietnamese. After cooking in Minnesota, he moved to Montana, where he cooked in famous lodges for several years. Then, he moved to Austin, Texas, for three years. In 2014, he returned to Montana and joined Bucks T-4 Lodge, where he took over the kitchen from long-time chef Chuck Schommer. Schommer started cooking at Bucks T-4 when he was 22, and he now owns the restaurant.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

With such a bounty of fresh, regional, and interesting products to choose from from right outside our back door, Northwest cuisine to me is wild mushrooms and ramps; extraordinary seafood, game, and poultry; wild berries; and amazing herbs. With its long seasons and mostly mild climate, the Northwest has all of these items and more to offer, and the chefs here prepare these ingredients with a practical sensibility that isn’t too fussy or contrived. 

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

With Buck’s T-4 being located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, we work with many purveyors right here, as well as all over the Northwest. In tying in to the previous question, Fresh And Wild is one of my favorite purveyors. We have a farmer here in the Gallatin Valley, Doug Stream, who meets with us each year and asks us what we would like him to grow for us. Gallatin Valley Botanical provides wonderful produce. Sierra Meats is a great supplier of game and proteins, and importantly, it has no problem keeping up with our volume. Lazy SR Ranch provides us with pork and marrow bones. We use Taylor Shellfish out of Shelton, WA, for great West Coast mussels.

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

We have a great little Thai restaurant here in town called the Lotus Pad. They work with many local growers and ranchers. How many Thai restaurants do that?! In our nearby town, Montana Ale Works always provides consistent local cuisine, great microbrews from our area, and warm, friendly, service.

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

Greg Higgins set the bar high for chefs around the country in building sustainable relationships with ranchers, growers and vendors. The Paley’s of Paley’s Place have a finger on the pulse of knowing how to connect with their guests in an unpretentious way.

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

I really don’t. I feel like many other regions of this country—The Rockies, Texas Hill Country, New England, The Upper Midwest, The Central Coast—all have a respect for each other, as well as a very deep respect for the entire Northwest.

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

Much like central California, we’re starting to see many ingredients that are indigenous to other parts of the globe being successfully cultivated in the Northwest. Truffles and wasabi, for example. I am very excited to develop locally sourced products that we can market outside our restaurant, as well as in our forthcoming retail store.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Interview with Maria Hines, Chef and Owner of Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce

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 Frank Huster

Maria Hines, Chef and Owner of Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce

Award-winning chef Maria Hines has been front and center of Seattle’s culinary scene for more than a dozen years due to her impressive restaurants Tilth (New American), Golden Beetle (Eastern Mediterranean) and Agrodolce (Southern Italian). From numerous James Beard awards, to Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef and Iron Chef America, Chef Hines's accomplishments are many. Early on, Maria shot onto the Seattle scene at the original W Hotel restaurant concept, Earth and Ocean. She opened Tilth in 2006, and it quickly became a national darling when the New York Times named it one of the best new restaurants in the country. 

Since picking up a love of cooking from an early age, Hines has cooked her way across the world, seeking new and creative ways to cook. Considered a thought leader on the subject of sustainability, her commitment is impressive and is practiced throughout all aspects of her company.

How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
Northwest cuisine to me is the technique of marrying hyper-seasonal local ingredients and classic European cooking techniques. 

Who are your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Skagit River Ranch has the only certified organic wagyu beef in the country.
Oxbow Farm is a small farm that pays attention to detail on quality produce.
King’s Garden— I still buy product directly off the truck when she comes by. It’s a true old-school produce-buying experience.
Black Sheep Creamery has the best sheep’s milk in the state.

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

Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Ethan Stowell (Staple & Fancy, Tavolata, et al.) really understands what people want and is committed to making them happy. John Sundstrom (Lark) is so committed to supporting and using farm-direct product.

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

The relationships built between chefs and local producers will always be the backbone of northwest cooking.

Tilth
1411 North 45th Street
Seattle, WA
tilthrestaurant.com

Monday, July 27, 2015

Interview with Justin Woodward, Executive Chef of Castagna

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.


Justin Woodward, Executive Chef of Castagna

Opened in 1999, Castagna is Portland's most underrated, and arguably, most innovative, restaurant. Chef Justin Woodward has the technical skills of M.C. Esher in the kitchen, and his modernist, tweezer food is boundary-pushing without relying on gimmicks: His creative, technically savvy cooking techniques are all in the service of the inherent flavors of the ingredients. Whether ordering a la carte or enjoying the Chef's Tasting Menu, which can reach up to 15 dishes (don't worry, several of these are scintillating, one-bite "snacks"), prepare for an artistic display of foraged and lovingly sourced ingredients. Additionally, prepare for prices that seem ludicrously low when compared with those of similar restaurants in larger cities: the 3-course prix fixe menu costs $55, and the Chef's Tasting Menu costs $155.

Chef Woodward has worked at WD-50 (one Michelin star) in New York; Noma (two Michelin stars) in Denmark; and Mugaritz Restaurant (two Michelin stars) in Spain. He also trained beneath Castagna's previous chef, Matt Lightner, who left Castagna to open Atera (two Michelin stars) in New York in 2011.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

To me, it is cooking seasonally and being aware of what is going on around you. What has the weather been like—has it been wet, dry? Even current events can spark small changes in the menu. If it is very cold outside, we might offer a few more warm dishes. In summer, I want most of the menu to be very refreshing.

Cooking in restaurants in this day and age, it is easy to order whatever produce you want. For me, I am constantly searching the Northwest for fresh produce. These are the most inspiring moments for me. These shifts in the market kick-start my creative process like nothing else could. It is easy to come up with a dish and order bulk produce from a giant company, but where is the love in that? I cannot speak for other chefs but for me the products are what make the cuisine. Creativity plays a small role after taste and seasonality. Some products just scream the Northwest. Salmon, hazelnuts, wild mushrooms. Others are a little less known but just as important to me. We get great local goat's milk, amazing huckleberries and black cod. Also, we have so many small vegetable farmers. All of the farmer's markets make it a great place to be a chef!

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

Your Kitchen Garden. This is our main vegetable provider. What he grows writes the menu at Castagna. 

Ayers Creek Farm provides dried cornmeal, freekeh, and amazing chicories.

Groundworks Organics delivers amazing produce all year. 

Baird provides apples, stone fruits, and cider.

Prairie Creek, for its beets, carrots, potatoes. 

Jacobsen Salt

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

Apizza Scholls has the best pizza in Portland. Ox and Laurelhurst Market are great for a steak. 

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

Blaine Wetzel is really putting himself out there. He's cooking on a small island and sourcing strictly locally. I admire the amount of work he is putting into creating a special place. 

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
The media focuses so much on what is trendy. What is the new kale, what is the new blah blah. What about chefs and farmers that have been doing great things for years? Digging below surface value seems to elude the mass food media. 

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

I am always excited for the new coming season. Right now, I am so excited for spring. Portland in the springtime is a magical place. The whole city seems to sprout and grow. There is this feeling in the air during spring. I love that.

Castagna Restaurant
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, Oregon 97214
www.castagnarestaurant.com

Friday, July 24, 2015

Interview with Terry Pichor, Executive Chef of Sonora Resort

--> 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.

Terry Pichor, Executive Chef of Sonora Resort

To understand Chef Terry Pichor's cuisine, you first must understand the Sonora Resort. Located in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia, the luxurious eco-adventure resort is accessible only by helicopter and seaplane, and that means that it's surrounded by pristine coastline teeming with Canadian delicacies, including sea grasses, mushrooms and shellfish. The recipient of two medals at the Gold Medal Plates, Chef Pichor draws inspiration from his bountiful surroundings, serving such dishes as Quadra Island Scallop with pickled wild kelp, miner’s lettuce, organic shiitake mushrooms, and bonito butter. Further, he travels abroad regularly to learn from his fellow chefs, and he has quick access to international ingredients through Vancouver. The result is comforting yet luxurious dishes that hit a five-star culinary standard.


1.   How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

This is a hard question to answer. The food of the Pacific Northwest is influenced by so many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and this plays into fine dining menus all over the major cities. I’ve eaten some of the best Japanese food, French food, Italian food, Thai food, Indian food, and it’s all here, good and bad. I don’t think there is a place in North America where people care more about the raw ingredient and where it is sourced, and this sets a high standard for the suppliers of local produce. The foods that are found in the wild are abundant and always have a place on my menus. The seafood in the Northwest is second to none. We are blessed in this part of the world, and when I travel and cook in other places, its always something I think about.

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

Glorious Organics
Outlandish Shellfish
Ponderosa Mushrooms
Two Rivers Specialty Meats
Benton Brothers, for cheese.
Oyama Sausage

They all have great service and they all stand behind the quality of the product.

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

Bao Bei
Suika
Nook
Zest
L’Abattoir

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

Chef Joel Watanabe of Bao Bei— Nobody can duplicate his food. It’s unique. It has its own style and is always delicious.

David Hawksworth and Kristian Eligh of Hawksworth Restaurant— They run one of the only modern fine dining restaurants in Vancouver. The menus are constantly changing, interesting and delicious. David trains the best cooks in the industry, and after two years at Hawksworth, you can go anywhere. I’m big fan of the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation. It’s a great idea, and the young cooks love the competition.

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

Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any.

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

The area continues to attract great chefs because of the quality of local produce and seafood. I’m excited to see the many young talented chefs coming up through the ranks and what they are going to bring to the table. I’m just looking forward to the 2015 season and getting back into the kitchen and continuing to develop new ideas for the tasting menus as they come to mind. I’m lucky that I get to cook in the spring and summer, when the ingredients are most fresh and available.

Sonora Resort
Sonora Island, Discovery Islands
www.sonoraresort.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Interview with Rachel Yang, Chef and Owner of Trove, Revel and Joule

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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.

Rachel Yang, Chef and Owner of Trove, Revel and Joule

Rachel Yang, chef and owner of Seattle restaurants Joule, Revel and Trove, exemplifies global cuisine. With influences based in Asia, France, Germany and other spots around the world, Yang creates modern and creative cuisine in her restaurants. Her biggest influences are her Korean heritage and the classic French techniques that can be seen and tasted throughout her dishes. Chef Yang works in tandem with business partner and husband, Seif Chirchi, who is also a chef, and together, they have created a restaurant group that is making a name for itself through harmonious innovation.

How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
Personally, I believe that you are cooking Northwest cuisine when you cook using the best produce that you can find locally in the Northwest. The region and the food scene have grown so diverse that there is no other way to define our cuisine.  

Who are your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Alvarez Organic Farm— For instance, it has a page-long list of different pepper varieties each summer.
Local Roots Farm has exceptionally fresh greens that keep so well in the walk in.
Willowood Farm plants specific produce on request.

When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
Rock Creek. They have the best seafood in town.

Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Matt Dillon. His dishes are very northwest, but he will surprise you by slipping different regional influences in.

Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you? What are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
People. There are so many people, from farmers and chefs to customers, who are passionate about Northwest cuisine.

Trove Restaurant
500 East Pike Street
Seattle, WA
troveseattle.com

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Article: A Cheese Lover's Guide to Portland, Thrillist


Chizu Omakase Cheese Boards, by Chizu
Originally published on Thrillist.com

Portland chefs use cheese better than MacGyver uses paperclips, so this article is long overdue: time to unleash the most creative uses of cheese in Portland. Short of wrapping cheese in cheese and deep-frying it in cheese, the following dishes are the cheesiest around -- the crème de la crème of cheese, if you will...

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