Food Lovers' Guide
The people we find most fascinating in the Seattle food scene right now.
A conversation with CHRIS YOUNG is like a chemistry lecture with the boring parts cut out. “Most food is 70 to 90 percent water,” he explains. “It’s just water with impurities in it.” Or, “What’s cream? It’s fat globules dispersed in water with proteins to stabilize it and lactose sugar to give it dairy flavor.” The manager of food research at Intellectual Ventures in Bellevue, Young holds degrees in mathematics and biochemistry from the University of Washington. It is cooking, however, that’s always put an, er, fire under him. (At age 12 he was flambeing cherries jubilee—and accidentally set his brown mane aflame.) In 2001 he scrapped academia for a career in the kitchen, which led to a gig at Heston Blumenthal’s world-renowned Fat Duck, an experimental French restaurant in the UK. Three years ago, Young was recruited by former Microsoftie and billionaire polymath Nathan Myhrvold to help research and coauthor Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking—at 2,200 pages, one of the most ambitious recipe tomes in history. Scheduled for release in December, it will be, says Young, “part cookbook, part reference work, part textbook, part philosophical statement.” No word on whether there will be a recipe for cherries jubilee.
He can’t live without his “High-speed centrifuge, which separates liquids, a solid from a liquid, or fat from an emulsion.”
Food fad that should fade Parlor tricks just for the sake of parlor tricks. “Fluid gels, foams, and ‘spherified’ things are no replacement for cooking well.”
Saimin Says: Tyler Palagi Is One to Watch
What does TYLER PALAGI do at Spring Hill? “Everything,” he says. Palagi has made a name for himself backing up chef Mark Fuller, whose clean, refined style is complemented by Palagi’s relatively rustic approach. In the two years he’s been at West Seattle’s exquisite restaurant Spring Hill, the 32-year-old cook has become known for his pastas. In his take on carbonara, his own fresh tagliatelle is coated in a Parmesan cream and nested around a bath-cooked egg that oozes into the noodles as you eat. But Palagi believes his true strength is in exploring things he hasn’t done before. Consider the pork belly saimin on Spring Hill’s brunch menu: the Asian-style hand-cut noodles are themselves a novelty, but the broth they arrive in, rich with traces of virtually every part of a pig’s anatomy, is transcendent as well as translucent—a feat really hard to achieve every single time. “There’s so much involved, but mostly, it’s a lot of hard work,” says Fuller. Three days’ work, to be exact.
The next big food thing will be “Local vegetable tasting menus.”
He can’t live without his “Bacon.”
Cheryl the Pig Lady
Never mind her high-pitched tralalala laugh or her nursery-rhyme nickname (everyone calls her “Cheryl the Pig Lady”), people take CHERYL OUELLETTE seriously. She was the driving force behind the Puget Sound Meat Producers Cooperative’s mobile slaughter unit, an abattoir on wheels that changed the game for Pierce County farmers formerly forced to truck their beasts far and wide for processing. She even ponied up $25K of her own cash to get it going.
Recently saddled with a lupus diagnosis, Ouellette still keeps up with raising her Summit farm’s menagerie—pigs, cows, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, and turkeys—while fighting to breathe new life into the Franklin Pierce school district’s neglected agriculture program. If she has her way, the kiddies will soon be cultivating crops and eating their farmed fare for lunch in the cafeteria. “We have no chance of growing new farmers if the kids don’t get their hands in the dirt,” says the pig lady.
Food fad that should fade “Wanting the cheapest thing. It’s hard for farmers to feel pride when people just want the most inexpensive, rather than the best tasting, option."
She can’t live without her “Pitchfork. Me and my pitchfork are never apart.”
He Did It His Whey
Until recently, the sloping hillside of KURT TIMMERMEISTER’s 13-acre Vashon Island farm had the look of an archaeological dig, with mounds of upturned earth framing a deep chasm in the ground. By the time you read this, that pit will house a 330-square-foot cheese-aging cave, where his new Grana Padano–style hard cheese, Francesca’s, will funkify and mature for 12 months at a consistently cool temperature. When it appears on store shelves next fall, fans of Dinah’s, Timmermeister’s silky Camembert-style cheese, will need no introduction to the Kurtwood Farms label. Somewhere between making the soft cheese and digging a home for the hard, the former restaurateur (he owned Seattle’s Cafe Septieme until 2004) found time to write a book. W. W. Norton will publish Growing a Farmer—his memoir and how-to for wannabe farmers—this January.
Food fad that should fade “Using the terms local and seasonal for PR alone.”
He can’t live without his “Immersion blender, the most underrated home tool.”
He Cuts Against the Grain
In August of 2009 HAJIME SATO’s 16-year-old West Seattle restaurant Mashiko became the third fully sustainable sushi bar in the U.S. (the others are in San Francisco and Portland). The change meant overhauling 50 percent of the menu and saying sayonara to customer faves like unagi, an endangered freshwater eel found at most sushi bars. He had to source from a slew of new-to-him vendors. Not cheap. Or popular. “People”—employees, friends, the man who stormed out when Sato refused him eel—“looked at me like I was in a cult,” says Sato.
Business dipped, bankruptcy loomed. But he stuck with it. One year later, customers from around the world show up to sample his handiwork; he’s consulted with Pike Place Market in its pledge to go sustainable; and he fills classrooms at Diane’s Market Kitchen and Asian cooking school Nu-Culinary, where he encourages students to always question the chow between their chopsticks.
Food fad that should fade “All of the diet fads. What happened to eating a balanced diet every day?”
The next big food thing will be “I wish people would not follow fads, so I refuse to predict them.”
When restaurateur Donna Moodie launched a search for a chef at her new Capitol Hill restaurant Marjorie, she found a soul mate in KYLEN MCCARTHY—both in the kitchen and out in the community. “I want to cook with foods that are in themselves books of stories,” says Moodie, and she trusted McCarthy to find them. McCarthy, last at the Harvest Vine, has a strong sense of civic involvement, which matched Moodie’s own. On his days off, you’ll find him driving out to the farms where he sources ingredients for Marjorie—not to work with the farmers, but to work for them.
He can’t live without his “Meat grinder and sausage stuffer.”
The next big food thing will be “A rebirth of small artisanal craftsmen and farmers.”
WHITNEY RICKETTS’s roving New Guard dinner parties —inspired by BFF Michael Hebb’s One Pot series and achieved alongside local creatives Sarah and Damien Jurado and Joey Veltcamp—unite one unsung musician, one artist, and one chef and provide them a platform to shine. As an editor at Sasquatch Books, she’s lured familiar local food figures—Joshua Henderson of Skillet Street Food fame; food writer Anna Roth (a sometime Seattle Met contributor); Amy Pennington, the Go Go Green Garden green thumb—to bring their fresh new takes on food to the Sasquatch table. And on the side, Ricketts organizes fun fetes for new restaurants. If food is the heart of this city, which, let’s face it, it is, Ricketts has her finger squarely on the pulse.
She can’t live without her “iPhone, the ultimate enabler to my distractibility.”
Food fad that should fade “Crostini, the frumpiest of appetizers. Keep your stale bread away from my cheese!”
The Fresher Your Fowl the Less You Spend
Perusing her neighborhood supermarket KATHLEEN FLINN, author of the culinary-school memoir The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, spied a woman loading her cart with a landfill’s worth of brightly labeled boxes. Intrigued, the Cordon Bleu–trained chef started trailing the woman through the aisles, observing (she prefers observing to stalking ) how she shopped. Eventually Flinn said hello, and she was soon showing the stranger how she could swap pricey prewrapped poultry pieces for a whole chicken chopped on the spot by the butcher, and save money by buying fresh foods in place of packaged.
And so, between penning a second food book and waiting to see how the Lifetime channel’s adaptation of Knife turns out, Flinn began teaching free one-on-one lessons to wean consumers from mass-market staples and enable them to prepare natural, nutritious meals while spending less. Today she’s taught more than 50 students and created a nonprofit school, Changing Courses, for which she is currently seeking a permanent space.
She can’t live without her “Trusty chef’s knife. And tongs. I use them for everything.”
The next big food thing will be “Canning, and not just among home cooks. I expect more hand-canned items on menus, too.”
Street Eats Spambassador
KAMALA SAXTON has had enough of that princess Portland wearing the street-food crown. “It’s time,” she says. Time, that is, for Seattle to claim that distinction as our own. Marination Mobile, her collab with Roz Edison, has done much to help that cause. From the moment the Korean—Hawaiian food truck took to the streets in June 2009 it was a hit; today 200 customers per day line up for Spam sliders and quesadillas perked up with kimchi, the spicy fermented cabbage concoction from Korea.
Food fad that should fade “I want the stuff on shelves today to sound like urban myth to the next generation. ‘Grandma, did people really eat stuff loaded with high fructose corn syrup? Ewwww!’ ”
The next big food thing will be “BBQ joints. In fact, any kind of joints. Places you pass by, and think, People in there are having a damn good time.”