Critic's Notebook

Who’s the Best Seattle Chef This Year?

(And why’d he switch things up so dramatically?)  

By Kathryn Robinson October 29, 2015

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Here's his new restaurant.

Image: Facebook

As you’ll read in my tribute to 2015 Seattle Met Chef of the Year, Jerry Traunfeld, Szechuan food presents a “completely different way of approaching cooking.” Traunfeld’s the maestro who put the Herbfarm on the international map, opened Northwest marvel, Poppy—and whose new Szechuan food bar, Lionhead, represents a full-on 180 in method and style.

“I love Szechuan food, I’ve always loved to cook it,” he told me. “I love that it’s about flavor and texture and incredibly intense heat—and that in two minutes, it’s shared. You almost never have a portion to yourself; it’s always meant to be shared with family or friends.”

Traunfeld researched Szechuan preparations and ingredients like a scholar, creating a highly traditional homage to the cuisine. A few things, however, he couldn’t resist Traunfeldizing. “I combined two dishes, both Chinese, for the red braised pork with saffron cabbage,” he confesses. “I put a braised tendon filling inside the steamed buns, which I’ve never seen. The other thing I did that’s really untraditional was put a soft-cooked egg on the buckwheat noodles. Only because I tried it that way once and it was really good.”

Oh, and the classic dish the Chinese call husband and wife lung slices? At Lionhead, it’s man and husband beef slices. Some things just need to be hauled into the current moment.

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