Today is Scott Carsberg’s big morning after: Last night Seattle’s favorite temperamental culinary genius performed his last dinner service in the Belltown restaurant he opened as Lampreia in 1992. He’s vague on the subject of why he’s closing—the man is vague, frankly, about a lot of things—but admirably transparent at the business of turning a journalist’s tribute into an employment-wanted ad.
What will you do now? Honestly, this is the first time I don’t have a plan. It’s funny how most people have a plan, but I’m staying open to opportunities. It’s how I cook. I’m open to anything. Since before Settebello I haven’t stopped long enough to think about it; I’ve worked since I was 15 and I’ve been focused on [Lampreia and Bisato]. Because I’m young, there’s a lot I want to explore. I wish I knew. Maybe somebody will offer me a job!
What will you miss at Bisato? My neighbors. The cooking. I love to cook. I love getting up early, shopping, finding ingredients. All my customers. They’re supportive. Unbelievable.
What won’t you miss? I’m a doer, not a complainer. I do things. I figure out a way to get it done. I’m positive and curious by nature. I’m very childlike.
What’s been the greatest honor of your career? Being married. My wife [Hyun Joo Paek] is just great; I have no words. The science of cooking is very interesting, it’s always been interesting, and some of the techniques in Nathan’s book [Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold] are great. I was happy to be in that book, three of my recipes are in it. We were surprised by the Moretti award. [The Birri Moretti award, bestowed by the same folks who run the Pellegrino list of the world’s 50 best restaurants, honored Bisato this year as the Best Emerging Italian Restaurant in North America.] We had no idea we would get that. When we got it we had to stay open a little longer than we’d planned.
Which chefs do you most admire? We all aspired to be like [Swiss chef] Frédy Girardet, he was fantastic. And [Italian chef Gualtiero] Marchesi, as a young cook. Andrea Helriegel [Carsberg’s mentor at Villa Mozart in northern Italy] was my favorite. Most chefs have 75 or 80 dishes they rotate; Helriegel had hundreds. He was amazing; one of the great cooks on the planet. The sheer discipline, the perfection. They’re not marketers; they’re working chefs. They’re working in their kitchens every day. Cooking is a craft.
What about Seattle chefs? In Seattle, I never go out to dinner. I’m serious—my only day off is Monday and I stay home. But Shiro [Kashiba, of Shiro’s Sushi up the street from Bisato] I like. I like him a lot. He’s an interesting man. And the simplicity! His food is so bloody simple, so clean, so ingredient driven.
And the smartest fish expert in Seattle is… Ken Hewitt, the fish guy at Uwajimaya. Oh my God! He is one of the most knowledgeable men about fish anywhere. It’s uncanny. I’ve never met anyone that can source out any fish served anywhere on the planet. If I can get into Uwajimaya before the store opens, with Ken, that’s the way to go. I don’t have to worry or compromise.
What are your best dishes? Dungeness crab wrapped in thin-sliced Honeycrisp apples with a thin sheet of apple gelee. That’s one. Also the orange confit with chocolate caramel mousse. [We here at Seattle Met called it the best dish of 2010.] And the pecorino baked on cedar. [A heartbreakingly thin slice of pecorino Toscano cheese baked on a cedar slab and drizzled with truffle honey, to be exact. I won’t ever forget it.] Those were definitive to what I do.
One thing I remember from your restaurants was the preponderance of male waiters. Was that intentional? No! I had women waiters too! I always asked every job applicant: Do you know what grape makes Burgundy? If they got it wrong I’d say, No! It’s pinot noir! It’s not like they wouldn’t get the job if they didn’t know it—but they’d have to learn it. Everyone who worked with me had to be willing to learn. I tell you what though, the best cooks I had in my kitchen were always women: Jess Hayes, Dana Cree, just fantastic. Men have egos, can’t get in touch with their feminine side. Women are more generous when they cook. They’re fairer. They have an eye for detail. They just seem to have the right hand for it. You know, generally speaking.