Jay Guerrero grew up in Ballard, but after earning an MFA at Parsons in New York, he ended up pursuing cooking. And after spending a day trailing in the kitchen at Prune, he was lucky enough to land his first-ever kitchen job at the much-loved Manhattan restaurant. (Lots of people outside of New York know it from chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter.)
He cooked for five years, garnered his own bit of acclaim, then worked at a few other places in Brooklyn (and back at Prune in catering) before deciding it was time to come home to Seattle. How fortunate that Hamilton knows Renee Erickson and was quick to get in touch and recommend his talents. More fortunate still: Erickson was opening her third restaurant, The Whale Wins, and moving longtime Boat Street chef de cuisine Marie Rutherford over to Fremont.
Now you'll find Guerrero running the kitchen at the Boat and reveling in his hometown and his new job. And making a mean lamb tongue dish, apparently.
Here, a few of Jay Guerrero's favorite things.
Dish to make at home: I like eggs in any form. Instant gratification! If I have time I like to roast a chicken.
Place to eat on your day off: Mike's Noodle House, Maneki. There are still a lot of places I need to try. What is this thing with being closed on Monday?
I can’t live without: NPR. Nerdy, I know.
Music in the kitchen: It changes, but at home there's a lot of soul and hip-hop. Prince, Budos Band, Wu Tang... at work we often come back to Harry Nilsson and Love. And Nas.
New York’s restaurant scene is… I love the history of New York's scene. It moves from old-school steak houses to places like Gray's Papaya (a hot dog joint) to Katz's Deli and Russ and Daughters. I like being able to trace the evolution of a neighborhood based on the food you can eat there.
Seattle’s restaurant scene is… Conversely, I also love the feeling of Seattle's scene-- it's very reflective of the city: right on the water, close to so many kinds of produce and foraged goods. The farmers here are amazing! You can get food here that I could never dream of in New York (not without a lot of shipping costs).
Can’t live without: continuing with radio, KEXP. I was here when it was KCMU.
Guilty pleasure: Diet Coke, I suppose.
Biggest restaurant pet peeve: Did I mention Mondays?
Dish on the Boat Street menu: We're doing a lamb's tongue right now that I'm pretty into. It's braised then seared off and served with pickled mustard seeds, shaved pears and mizuna.
Craziest work story that can be committed to print: When I was working a Thanksgiving service at Prune, Con Ed (the electric utility company) was doing some construction down the street and knocked power out to the whole block. The gas still worked, so we put up lanterns and lit candles and kept going... I think power came back on before it got too dark. I may have blocked the memory.