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.

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