Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Interview with John Sundstrom, Chef and Owner of Lark

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.

John Sundstrom, Chef and Owner of Lark


 Photo by Zack Bent
Seattle’s John Sundstrom, chef and owner of Lark, draws from an eclectic array of experiences. Before attending New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, Sundstrom apprenticed under Yasuyuki Shigarami, a chef classically trained in Japanese cuisine and sushi.  In addition to working in some of the finest resort hotels in the United States, Sundstrom has held the title of chef de cuisine at Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Lounge, where he further developed his appreciation for the Northwest's abundance of organic and locally sourced ingredients.

Along with his wife, JM Enos, and business partner,  Kelly Ronan, Chef Sundstrom opened Lark on Seattle’s Capitol Hill in 2003. An artisan restaurant, Lark has a seasonal rotating menu with a focus on dinner. In late 2014, Lark relocated a few blocks, and the team opened Bitter/Raw, a bar situated in the upstairs mezzanine at Lark, which houses a variety of crudo and charcuterie, as well as wine, beer, and cocktails. In early 2015, Chef Sundstrom also opened Slab Sandwiches + Pie, a take-out counter that provides sandwiches, hand pies, desserts, and coffee. Chef Sundstrom has been featured on Food Network’s “Food Nation” and “Best of” programs.  In 2007, the James Beard Foundation named him Best Chef Northwest.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
The Northwest is a very special place, in that, our geography allows for a rich array of great edibles to thrive here. We have the bounty of the ocean, with it's salmon, black cod, halibut and shellfish. The lush forests full of wild mushrooms, berries and unique wild greens and vegetables. And of course the fertile, river valleys East of the Cascades that are capable of growing unrivaled crops of tomatoes, wheat, corn, grapes and hops. To me this bounty is what drives Northwest cuisine. Every chef is inspired by different cultures, maybe their own, maybe those around them. I feel like our region has much in common with Western Europe and so many of the dishes on Lark's menu are inspired by the cuisines of France, Spain, the British Isles and Scandinavia.

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

I've been cultivating a network of suppliers for almost 2 decades in the Northwest, many of whom have grown to become good friends. Some of my favorites:

Billy's Farm in Tonasket, WA. Billy and Stephanie grow amazing tomatoes, peppers, basil and peaches which we dream of for about 8 months every year, and then one day they arrive, and we eat and cook them with abandon.

Kurtwood Farm, Vashon Island. I've seen Kurt go from cafe and restaurant owner, to farmer/host/chef to author and lately cheesemaker. A true ground breaker. And his cheeses are fantastic!

Full Circle Farm, Carnation, WA. One of the first organic farms I really connected with almost 20 years ago. Andrew and his family have grown very close to me, and it's been a pleasure to see their farm and business grow and thrive. A true steward of the land Andrew has been influential in securing the future of organic farming in the Puget Sound area.

Jones Farm, Lopez Island. A wonderful family, raising animals, managing shellfish beds, raising vegetables, they do it all. And so young, a great example of farmings future.

Foraged and Found Edibles. I've been a fan of wild ingredients, long before they were cool. And Jeremy Faber is the leader in the Northwest for quality and integrity when it comes to the wild and foraged.

Yarmuth Farm, Darrington WA. Louise Yarmuth's goat cheeses are to die for! Nonna Capra, White Horse and Clementine just to name a few. And a few of us lucky chefs have access to her pigs and goats once or twice a year. Amazing flavor and so carefully raised.

Local Roots Farm, Duvall, WA. It's been close to 10 years that Jason and Siri started their farm, and they've been nailing it ever since. They've established a new way of working with chefs, where they come to us every year with new and delicious varietals of produce. It's awesome! A staple at many of Seattle's farmers markets, don't miss any of the greens originating in Italy.


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

For those rare nights out, I tend toward food I trust. I'm a big fan of Le Caviste. Not a huge menu, but carefully prepared and what a wine list! Japanese food is near and dear, and my favorite place for top notch sushi and sashimi is KappoTamura. A favorite spot for a lunch date with my wife is Il Corvo, always bustling, but we generally have the whole menu (only 6 or 8 dishes!) when we go and stretch out the afternoon.

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

Jerry Traunfeld is an amazing chef, who has quietly been going about his craft ever since I arrived in this city. Always delicious, inventive and thoughtful. 

After an amazing trip to Argentina a few years ago, I've been inspired by it's scenery and it's rustic cuisine. Greg Denton and Gabi Quinonez of Ox in Portland, have created an unique restaurant that's true to both Argentina and Portland, and so, so good. I wish I had thought of it first!

5- In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
I think focussing on the beauty and potential of the small towns and rural areas that supply such amazing food to cook with. I'd like to see people being encouraged to go out and explore the region. 

6-Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
As chefs travel the world and work in world class restaurants, then return to the NW, I think more and more personal expressions of the region will unfold. I can't wait to taste the future! For myself, I have everything I want to play with in front of me now; Bitter/Raw with it's seafood/shellfish and charcuterie bar; Slab Sandwiches + Pie, an entirely new direction for me; and of course Lark, all grown up and better than ever.

Lark
952 East Seneca Street
Seattle, WA 98122
206.323..5275
https://larkseattle.com/





Thursday, September 24, 2015

Interview with Holly Smith, Chef and Owner of Café Juanita

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.


Holly Smith, Chef and Owner of Café Juanita

Hailing from a food-loving family in Monkton, Maryland, Holly Smith is the chef and owner of Kirkland’s Café Juanita. Smith studied in Ireland under the tutelage of a Master Chef Peter Timmins at the Baltimore International Culinary College, and after moving to Seattle in 1993, she began working with Tom Douglas at the Dahlia Lounge. She was employed as the sous chef of the Dahlia Lounge for four years, and in 1999, fellow Seattle chef Tamara Murphy invited her to take part in the opening of Brasa.

Smith opened Cafe Juanita in Kirkland in April of 2000. Inspired by Northern Italian cuisine, she created a menu using seasonal, fresh artisan products from Italy and the Pacific Northwest. In 2008, Chef Smith won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest, and chef Smith and Café Juanita were nominated for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Restaurant in 2011.

In a recent bold move, Smith briefly turned Café Juanita into a popup in Capital Hill. In July, she reopened the remodeled Café Juanita with a more contemporary decor, a new private dining room that seats 40, and an upper deck that seats eight.
1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

I think the Hallmark of Northwest Cuisine for me is the depth of the community's commitment to and access to local ingredients, from both small and mid-sized farmers, artisans and companies. The network that is in place here is very special and, I think, rare in the U.S. I think the Northwest is an omnivore's paradise. Of course, we do have a strong Korean, Thai and Vietnamese presence in our restaurants, given our Pacific Rim culture... What I like are people who love this place and who travel and get inspiration and then bring that worldview back to the Northwest. I think that has the potential to help us grow as a world-class food region.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?
We love them all! I enjoy working with Oxbow Farms, Foraged and Found Edibles, Steel Wheels Farms, Full Circle Farms, Palouse Pastured Poultry, and SweetGrass Wagyu.

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
I must say sushi is my go-to, and I am always very happy at Kisaku and Sushi Kappo Tamura.


4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
I admire all of the hard working chefs and cooks here. I always prefer to look at the scene as a whole and support it rather than call out one or two, when so many people are working so hard and with such passion.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
Well, I think that in general the media focuses on a "Best New" model that means that readers are constantly shown the hot new thing... It's great for us all as we open to be included, but is that the real best on any of those lists… doubtful. Of course, I say that after spending a long time working to improve and refine both food and service at one place. I know from experience as a guest, as well as a worker bee, that experience yields results. My last meal at Le Bernidan was the best ever! I think that a wider net could certainly be cast to find delicious food.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
I think that our guests are becoming increasingly savvy and open to trying new things. I love that, because it means chefs are cooking from their hearts rather than from a formula. 

I am in the beginning stages of a very big remodel of my restaurant, and I am so excited to find out if all of the improvements we have made on paper will really translate as I foresee in service and experience! I am, of course, also excited to be operating a Pop Up in Seattle on Capitol Hill. It's fun to play with a tasting-menu-only pop up on the Seattle side after 14 + years of driving to Kirkland.


Café Juanita
9702 NE 120th Pl
 Kirkland, WA 98034
425.823.1505
http://www.cafejuanita.com/

Monday, September 21, 2015

Interview with Roy Breiman, Culinary Director at Cedarbook Lodge

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.

Roy Breiman, Culinary Director of Copperleaf Restaurant at Cedarbook Lodge


Photo by Jeff Caven Photography 
After graduating from La Cordon Rouge Culinary School in Sausalito, California, Roy Breiman began his career as a chef working in four and five star restaurants in San Francisco and New York City. He went on to spend several years abroad in France, where he worked in multiple Michelin-starred restaurants. Upon returning to the United States, he took a job at Meadowood Napa Valley Resort, whose kitchen flourished under his direction.

In 2003, Chef Breiman came to Seattle, where he brought his talents to Salish Lodge & Spa before becoming Culinary Director of Copperleaf Restaurant at Cedarbrook Lodge. Known for his focus on sustainability, not only through food but also through affiliations with like-minded organizations, Breiman is at the forefront of the Northwest food movement. Working with small farms, ranchers, and fisherman, Breiman and his team are committed to bringing the total experience to each guest.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

One Word, “Authentic.” Our local cuisine is seasonally inspired and agriculturally driven. We are fortunate to have access to high-density agriculturally rich regions and microclimates, which include the waters of the Puget Sound the grain fields of the Palouse, as well as the pasture lands of Western Washington. When you make these extraordinary products available to talented chefs, you create a unique story centered on local cuisine that’s based on superior ingredients. In turn, this creates what I like to call “seasonally inspired regional cuisine.”

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors, whether farms and ranches or hot-sauce, salt, or olive-oil producers?

All of these producers possess a passionate pursuit of excellence within their craft! We Love 'em all. They are like family to us.

Pleasant View Farm (Duck, Foie Gras)
Green Man Microgreens (Organic Micro Greens)
Golden Glen Creamery (Farm Butter)
Oxbow Farm (Organic Produce)
Willowood Farm (Organic Produce)
Richter Farms (Rhubarb and Berries)
Taylor Shellfish (Oysters, Clams, Mussels,)
Forged and Found Edibles (Wild Mushrooms, Huckleberries and Foraged Greens)

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

Lark
Sitka and Spruce
Le Pichet
Café Juanita

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Armandino Batali, Johnathan Sundstrom, and Holly Smith— They’re great human beings with great families, and they are fully committed to their craft and the success of their region. Also, they are full of inspiration and passion and are great mentors to a new generation of cooks.

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

We do great with regional specialty products—i.e. seafood, shellfish, organic produce, specialty meats, cheeses and dairy—but not so well with “Direct to Market” artisanal products. Products that are focused on local and regional ingredients, such as jams, jellies, honeys, fruit-based products, grains etc. Unfortunately, driving public awareness is not as focused in this area, with prohibitive costs and a lack of professional kitchens to produce products commercially. Also, the competition to reach a larger market is intense. Regarding media, the bottom line is that these products are not sexy enough or captivating enough for their readers.

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

I am excited to participate in the development and continued evolution of our local spirit. I am excited to see everything from the growth of modernist cuisine, to the continued growth and development of successful small farm agriculture in Washington State. Of course, I am also excited to continue to advocate for the protection of sustainable food systems within our region.

In terms of what I'm excited to do in the kitchen, the answer is "Everything." What we cook is a reflection of who we are—it is a reflection of our own personal growth as told in the story of our cuisine. We live life to the fullest, and along the way, we mature as human beings. As the seasons change, so do our perspectives. To have a platform to tell that story through the craft of cooking is a privilege, and I am humbled every time I have an opportunity to share that experience with others.

Cedarbrook Lodge
18525 36th Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98188
206.901.9268



Thursday, September 17, 2015

Interview with Ned Bell, Executive Chef of YEW Seafood + Bar, The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

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.

Ned Bell, Executive Chef of YEW Seafood + Bar, The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver


At the tender age of twelve, Ned Bell started cooking at home for his siblings, thus sparking an enthusiasm for preparing fresh, local food. By age fifteen, he landed a job as a dishwasher at Kerrisdale’s Avenue Grill, and he went on to attend Dubrulle Culinary School. After school, he began apprenticing at Vancouver restaurants, and today, he is executive chef of YEW Seafood + Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver.   


As executive chef, Bell is committed to sustainable seafood, and this commitment can be seen throughout YEW’s concept and menu, as well as his Chefs for Oceans (INSERT:http://chefsforoceans.com/)organization and development of Canada's National Sustainable Seafood Day. While many of his creations are inspired by various global cuisines, Chef Bell prides himself on using only the best homegrown ingredients. It is this vision that has put Bell in the spotlight as an innovative yet sustainable culinary artist. 

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
I describe Northwest, or West Coast Cuisine, in many ways. But most simply, it’s globally inspired, and locally created. We have flavors from all over the world, put together with ingredients from the lakes, oceans, rivers, farms, orchards, pastures and farmlands that we call home.

2. Who are 6 of your favorite purveyors, whether farms and ranches or hot-sauce, salt, or olive-oil producers?
Organic Ocean Seafood
Taylor Shellfish
Vancouver Island Sea Salt Company
North Arm Farms
Farmhouse Cheeses
Berry Boys

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
 Grand Dynasty for Dim Sum
Via Teverre for Pizza
Zest for authentic Japanese
Bella Gelateria, for the best Gelato in the world

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
I admire my collective of culinary visionaries who push hard to define and redefine daily. Feeding people matters, and what and how we feed people matters. We are not solving the world’s problems, but how we feed each other will define the next generations.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
We need to highlight the incredible work that our fishermen's and women do. Without them our cooking wouldn’t be as world class as it is. Sustainable seafood from the Pacific coast is some of the best in the entire world and the hard working people that nurture their craft need more love and attention.  

6. Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you?
Through our foundation, Chefs for Oceans we look forward to continue to nurture the message of sustainable seafood through education, awareness of wild well managed fisheries and healthy best practice aquacultures.

YEW seafood + bar
791 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, Canada V6C 2T4

604.692.4939 (4YEW)
The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
http://www.yewseafood.com/

Monday, September 14, 2015

Interview with Renee Erickson, Executive Chef and Owner of The Whale Wins, Boat Street Café

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 Jim Henkens
Renee Erickson, Chef/Partner of The Whale Wins, Boat Street Café, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle

Every now and then a chef does everything right. Enter Renee Erickson. A James-Beard-nominated chef-owner of a handful of highly acclaimed Seattle restaurants, Chef Erickson has managed to create a cozy and inviting ambiance in each of her locations. As a lover of the Puget Sound and its resources since childhood, she brings all of it to life in her attractive and simply prepared dishes. Erickson pickles her specialty preserved fruits and vegetable conserves, which has helped to make the Provencal-inspired cuisine at her first restaurant, Boat Street Café, so memorable. In 2013, Bon Appetit magazine called her restaurant The Walrus and the Carpenter one of the twenty most important restaurants in the United States.

Chef Erickson’s easy, fun, casual style is reflected in her first cookbook published in 2014: A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus: Menus & Stories. It contains seasonal menus fit for various occasions within the Pacific Northwest, and Chef Erickson accompanies her easy-to-follow recipes with personal stories and anecdotes. Stay tuned as Erickson continues to make her mark with a bevy of new concepts on the horizon.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
Fresh, dynamic and delicious.  I think we are so lucky to be cooking here.  Wedged between the mountains and the Sound:  it can't get better.  Our community of farmers and producers are the best! 

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors, whether farms and ranches or hot-sauce, salt, or olive-oil producers?
Hama Hama oysters is family run and has the highest quality oysters from pristine waters on the Hood Canal.
Willowood Farms—  Georgie grows some of the most delicious produce around.  Her farm on Whidbey Island is in an historic growing area called Ebey’s Landing.  She is famous for garlic and her Rockwell beans
Villa Jerada  Mehdi brings us perfect spices, including super fresh and harvest-dated saffron. Rich Moroccan olive oils, too.  He is always expanding and looking to bring special items to the Northwest from his home of Morocco.  I just want to get my hands on some of his orange blossom water now.
Kurtwood Farms Cheese. I love his Dinah's camembert-style cheese and can't wait for his ice cream shop to open. 
Sea Wolf bread is a new bakery from Kit and Jess Schaumman.  They are making some new bread for us in the Boat Street Cafe's kitchen at night: delicious rye bread and levain.  Look for more great things from them soon.
Local Roots Farm is always a favorite of mine.  Jason, Seri and family grow the most delicious vegetables.  My favorites are the bitter lettuces.

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

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Only two? Holly Smith at Cafe Juanita and Brandon Pettit of Delancy and Essex.  Holly is classic and produces some of the finest food around.  Brandon is a mad man!  I love his dedication to food and creativity.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
I think food gets loads of attention.  Maybe there should be more attention given to nonprofit growers, like Youth Garden Works. 

6. Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you?
I am excited to see what the younger chefs will bring to the city.  In the kitchen, I look forward to learning more about dry-aging beef and experimenting more with the wood oven at The Whale Wins.

The Whale Wins (etc. see above) 
3506 Stone Way N. Seattle WA 98103
206 632-9425
http://www.reneeerickson.com/              


Friday, September 11, 2015

New Article: Uncorking Idaho Wine, Northwest Travel Magazine

This article on Idaho wine was originally published by Northwest Travel Magazine.
The cinder-red soils of Idaho wine country, Skyline Vineyard [Photo by Mattie John Bamman]

Idaho’s first vineyard may have been planted in 1864, but the face of Idaho wine today is young, both in terms of its wineries and its winemakers. The most telling stat is that in 2002, Idaho had 11 wineries. Today, just 13 years later, it has more than 50. Some of these wineries are producing truly elegant, well-priced wines, but what about Idaho wine in general? What grapes will become Idaho’s most iconic? And how do Idaho wines differ from wines from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia?

Continue to the full article---->

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Interview with David Hawksworth, Executive Chef of Hawksworth Restaurant

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.

David Hawksworth, Executive Chef of Hawksworth Restaurant
           
As one of Canada's best chefs, Chef David Hawksworth has masterful technical skills and an unflinching demand for the best local products. His namesake restaurant, located in Downtown Vancouver, serves contemporary Canadian menu, with such dishes as Butter -Poached Lobster with Iberico ham risotto, fennel, spring onion, and crispy manchego, in an elegant and modern dining room. 

Chef Hawksworth's culinary background includes stints in some of Europe's best restaurants. These include the European Michelin-starred kitchens in Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, L’Escargot and The Square. Recognized by Western Living’s “Top 40 under 40,” Hawsworth was the youngest chef to be inducted into BC’s Restaurant Hall of Fame. In addition, he is the recipient of the 2012 and 2013 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards for Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year. 

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
For us here in Vancouver, Pacific Northwest cuisine generally means Asian influences, including the emphasis of light, acidic and addictive flavors. Plus there is the inclusion of an abundance of sustainable seafood on everyone’s plates and fresh local produce.

2. Who are 6 of your favorite purveyors, whether farms and ranches or hot-sauce, salt, or olive-oil producers?
Two Rivers Meats for coppa and duck
Mikuni Wild Harvest for wild mushrooms
Organic Ocean for spot prawns and salmon
Kuterra for the best inland farmed BC salmon
North Arm Farms for vegetables

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
My favorites would be La Quercia, on Vancouver’s Westside, for Italian. A definite classic would be Vij’s on 12th Avenue for his spin on Indian food. I’m also an avid skier and try to spend lots of time on Whistler Blackcomb during the winter, so Sachi Sushi is the go to place up there.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
In Vancouver, there are a couple of standout chefs, Lee Cooper and his team has been doing a great job at L’Abattoir, since it opened in 2010. A role model for me has always been Michel Jacob of Le Crocodile, for his longevity and consistency in the fine dining industry.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
Not necessarily. In the past few years we’ve noticed the public paying more attention, in a positive way, to many different areas of Pacific Northwest cuisine, including sustainable seafood, responsible cultivation of beef, and most recently, a strong emphasis on vegetables taking the leading role on restaurant plates.

6. Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you?
What always excites me is the freshness and accessibility of Vancouver’s waters—things like spot prawns, Dungeness crab and oysters that are sitting on our doorstep. We are working on a new restaurant opening later this year, and I am hoping to create a new style of menu for Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest region. More details to come!

Hawksworth Restaurant
801 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
BC  V6C 1P7  Canada
Located at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia
 604-673-7000

Monday, September 7, 2015

Interview with Chef Blaine Wetzel, Executive Chef of The Willows Inn, Lummi Island

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 Blaine Wetzel, Head Chef of The Willows Inn, Lummi Island

Chef Blaine Wetzel landed the 2015 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest, marking yet another milestone in his culinary career. Previously, he tied for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef category. With his rising success, awards will continue to come, that is certain.

A Washington state native, Wetzel has worked in kitchens since his early teens, and he is considered a prodigy of René Redzepi, head chef of Nomo, the two-Michelin-star restaurant in Denmark. After responding to a Craigslist ad about a chef’s opening at Willow’s Inn, he was offered the position in 2010, and the potential of working with indigenous foods paired with the breathtaking Lummi Island location pulled Blaine in. Just one year later, the Inn earned a spot on The New York Times list as one of the world’s 10 Best Restaurants worth traveling to. Chef Wetzel describes the menu in his own words as “a moment in time, fished, foraged and farmed, a story about the land and the place is the food.”

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
I would say that what is considered the Pacific Northwest is a really large area with a ton of geographic diversity, probably about the same size as France. Similar to France, there are different cuisines within our own different regions that correspond to ingredient availability and cultural factors. I live in the northern Puget Sound, and I would say that, in this area, our cuisine is rooted in the abundant fish and shellfish. This ties into our history as a fishing area, along with fertile agricultural lands with long cool weather growing seasons. 

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors, whether farms and ranches or hot-sauce, salt, or olive-oil producers?
Loganita Farm (our farm)
Lummi Island Biodynamic Farm— It produces the most unique versions of vegetables that I have ever seen.
Taylor Shellfish— They grow a lot of different shellfish in many locations in the Sound.
Jones Family Farms— Awesome family providing all sorts of top shelf stuff on Lopez Island.
Skagit Valley Ranch— Animals raised right.
The Bread Lab— Bread done right.

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

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Matt Dillon— Fantastic cook. I really enjoy all of his restaurants.
Nathan Lockwood— Nice guy and really good cook.
Canlis Bar— Best cocktails, with views and music.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
Not really. I enjoy the amount of attention that the PNW is getting these days. There are several great publications putting out good stories and information. Also, in the past few years, there has been a decent amount of national and international attention given to the great ingredients and environment we have here.

6. Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you?
I am excited about high quality local grains, fresh wild game and all the amazing craft beers that are happening. In the kitchen, every night I am excited for dinner. I do this because I love seeing people enjoy the tastes we create while they soak in the views and comfortable setting here on Lummi Island.

Willow Inn-Lummi Island
2579 W Shore Drive
Lummi Island, WA 98262
Phone: (360) 758-2620
Toll Free: (888) 294-2620

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

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