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/





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