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Home Grown: A celebration of local culinary enterprise

Bridget Charters, Hot Stove Society

When Tom Douglas and his lieutenants went looking for new ventures, they didn't stop at restaurants. The block-long project along Sixth Avenue does include one eatery, Tanaka San, but also encompasses a coffee-&-juice meeting place called Assembly Hall; and a deli called Home Remedy, that also houses a flower shop. They already had an event space (Palace Ballroom), and several smaller projects in the works (including a pizzeria at the new Starbucks Roastery on Capitol Hill), but then they thought about the Hotel Andra, at 4th & Virginia, where they were already operating a dining room called Lola.

There was unused space on the mezzanine level of the hotel; T-Doug turned it into a Scandinavian bar called Lök. And the banquet rooms behind those balcony doors? Well, that became a year-round, mainstream cooking school, the Hot Stove Society.

Yes, there were other culinary centers around town, some operating as chains (Le Cordon Bleu, Art Institute), some as offshoots of community colleges for people who wanted professional, vocational training (South Seattle, Central, Bellevue, Renton, etc.). And from time to time, restaurant chefs have offered cooking classes to their fans, and cookware stores like Sur La Table (and the late, lamented Dish It Up) have also offered hands-on classes. But Hot Stove Society was designed for serious amateurs rather than line-cooks-in-training. (In that regard, the model was more like Blue Ribbon on Lake Union or Diane's Market Kitchen on Post Alley.)

To run his program, Douglas and his CEO, Pamela Hinckley, recruited Bridget Charters, one of the top instructors from the Art Institute. "Her energy, passion and professional past guarantees that we are going to have a rocking good time while learning new skills," Hinckley said last year.

As for Charters, she started at Gonzaga, moved to San Francisco, and returned to Seattle to work in TV production with Italian chef Nick Stellino. She continues to work for food festivals around the country (New York, South Beach, Aspen) while managing Hot Stove Society's full schedule.

The good news is that the dozen Tom Douglas restaurants and catering divisions have plenty of culinary talent, so it's easy to slot in an on-staff pastaiolo like Herschell Taghap, or even a celebrity guest chef like Armandino Batali or Thierry Rautureau. What the downtown location offers as well is that all-American corporate event known as "team building." Nothing like getting your hands on some hamburger to strengthen those bonds with co-workers.

Brian Scheehser, Growing His Own

When Brian Scheehser arrived in Seattle two decades ago, trained at the CIA via Chicago, to take a post on the line at the Hotel Sorrento's highly-regarded restaurant, the Hunt Club, the city's culinary reins were firmly in the hands of a cohort of highly capable women (Monique Barbeau, Emily Moore, Kathy Casey, Tamara Murphy, Chris Keff, Kyle Fulwiler, Sally McArthur), not to mention Barbara Figueroa at the Hunt Club itself. Remember those days? Today? Renée Erickson and Maria Hines for sure, but mostly dudes.

Scheehser toiled dutifully at the Hunt Club for many years, never letting standards slip, but, a decade ago, he "moved east" and took command of the kitchen at a luxury boutique hotel across Lake Washington in Kirkland, the Heathman. The mother ship, the venerable Heathman Hotel in Portland, was where James Beard-winner Greg Higgins got his start before setting out on his own. Higgins pioneered the novel approach to the whole farm-to-table conundrum: to ensure a steady supply of high-quality produce, he had started his own mini-farm. In Portland, there are clear boundaries between suburbs for housing tracts and suburbs for agriculture; easier said than done in the Seattle area, with lax zoning regulations that seem to encourage construction, development, and urban sprawl. Still, Scheehser found 18 acres in nearby Woodinville (part of an urban agriculture project called South 47 Farm) which he has planted with a variety of fruit and produce for the hotel's restaurant, Trellis.

From winter squash soup and beet salad at lunch, arugula and zucchini carpaccio for the salad plates, to fried sage leaves for the house-made ravioli, there's a steady stream of vegetables, tree fruit and berries from the farm to the kitchen.

The latest project at Trellis is that classic British standby, the cream tea (sometimes called High Tea by confused Americans, but that's another story.) Popularized on the West Coast of North America by the grandest grande dame of all, the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, the cream tea features an assortment of finger sandwiches, along with pastries, fruit, and a generous bowl of clotted cream. (At Trellis, they call it crème fraîche.) So far, the tea service is only available on weekends; we hope it catches on. Why should Canadians have all the fun?

January 2015


 Ronald Holden is a Seattle-based journalist who specializes in food, wine and travel. He has worked for KING TV, Seattle Weekly, and Chateau Ste. Michelle. His blog is www.Cornichon.org and he has recently published a new book "Home Grown Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink"


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