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

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?

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              


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