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.”