Geneva Melby doesn’t think she should be called ‘chef’ at JuiceBox, even though she’s the one who makes all the food, who tinkers with the menu, and who JuiceBox owners, Kari Brunson and Brandin Myett, call their chef.
“We’re not a restaurant, we’re like a cafe,” she explains of the food at the 12th Avenue juice bar. "I don’t have a sous chef, we don’t have different stations.” Her work day begins in the morning at seven and ends by six, rather than creeping past midnight. But restaurant or not, she whips out soups, salads, and scrambles full of seasonal and locally sourced goodness. (Flowering rabe, pea vines, and dandelion greens, anyone?)
Originally from Piedmont, California, Melby came to Seattle and professional kitchens by way of culinary school at Seattle Culinary Academy (”it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made”). It led her to a year and a half stint at La Bête. And it led her to a six-month stage in Spain as part of a competitive Spanish gastronomy program at Le Domaine Abadía Retuerta, with Andoni Luis Aduriz (of Mugaritz) before she returned to Seattle.
At JuiceBox, Melby also keeps busy with pet projects like pickling and making kimchi. “Right now in our fridge,” she says, excitedly, “there’s a whole bunch of pickled asian pears from the winter, pickled ramps from spring, pickled shallots. Oh, and pickled turmeric root, which I shave really thin and pickle; It’s one of my favorites.”
Here, a few of Geneva Melby’s (other) favorite things:
Secret ingredient: Lemon or lime juice. Balancing out dishes with the brightness that fresh citrus brings is always a good thing. Also complex spice blends like ras el hanout.
Guilty pleasure: Chorizo con huevos with fresh flour tortillas the way grandma would make them. I could eat that every single day.
If you weren't a chef, you would be: Working with my hands, maybe as a botanist or farmer. I love identifying plants and learning more about them. I also enjoy cultivating and eating them.
Most memorable kitchen disaster: I was staying at a friend's farm in rural Oregon and wanted to show my gratitude by making a pie with their heritage squashes. We sat down to eat and one of the hosts spits a bite of pie out. Turns out I had put about 1 cup of salt into that pie, stupidly thinking, and not tasting, that the 10-gallon jar filled with white stuff could only be sugar. I was mortified but the deer were delighted with their new salt lick!
Recently splurged on: A ticket to North Carolina because my best friend is getting hitched.
First dish I made: Beef braciole. I remember rolling up strips of meat next to my grandmother and tying butchers twine around each bundle. I must have been just tall enough to reach the counter.
Favorite thing on TV: Old episodes of No Reservations; I crave peering into different cultures and their cuisine.
Dish you wish you could make more of: Sausages. Particularly morcilla.
Can't live without: Family, which for me is in California. I think of them always. And fermented foods—kimchi, pickles, miso, yogurt, wine, beer. I love them all. It's amazing what time will do if you let it.
A juice cleanse is... Refreshing. I really like to have a simple green juice a day but sometimes you just feel like you need to hit the restart button, you know?