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Cono Sur and Revolve


Fairmont Olympic Hotel

New culinary leadership

Chef Paul Shewchuk is taking the Fairmont Olympic closer than it's ever been to farm-to-table. Surprising in a downtown hotel? Not if you know anything about Fairmont Hotels. They work hard to represent the area they're in; Paul is cementing what has been in the works for years.

Paul with friendly Fairmont bees

Paul moved to Seattle in April of 2016 to work with Chef Gavin Stephenson who had been at the Olympic as executive chef since 1999 (he moved to the SLS Seattle hotel). "I spent nine months with Gavin and he taught me cooking and techniques, but the main thing was teaching me how to be a leader," says Paul. "He taught me about drive and how to run a kitchen. It was the most engaged nine months of my career. When he left, several key staff went with him, and that's allowed me to build my team. I brought in Andrew Whiteside as executive sous chef. He and I have worked together since 2012."

Sustainability has always been important at the hotel, and bee hives have been on the roof for over five years. Paul is taking it further. "I'm intertwining the hotel's vision with my own farm-to-table history, getting to know local farmers and bringing them into our Pacific Northwest focus, adding my own twists. We've added five local producers to our network since May. For instance, we're bringing in a whole pig each month. Staff is learning how to break down a whole animal, and we use all of it in some form throughout the hotel. We want to support the farmer who is breeding heritage pigs in an artisan style; it's a dying art."

"I remember my first time at Pike Place Market. I thought it was too early in the season for cherries, but when I looked around, they were everywhere. We have a longer growing season here than Canada where I'm from. Some of the fruit I've had here is the best by far of anything I've ever had. You've got mountain elevations great for finding mushrooms and huckleberries, the Sound and rivers for seafood. All contained within 300 miles. These are magical products and we want to highlight them." Kara Terek, Marketing, adds "Focusing on farm-to-table for a hotel this size is unique, and we want people to experience what Seattle is; the sensory part of travel is taste. We're fortunate to have a chef who cares so much about bringing forth taste and flavor."

As a child, Paul never thought of food as a career. It was part of life: on weekends, his dad would get them up at 6:30 a.m. to go to the farmers market in Ontario to get their produce for the week. During summer they'd get a bushel of peaches. In August it was tomatoes they would can for making chili all year long. They had plum, pear, and apple trees. "We were always canning and making things," he recalls. "I have vivid memories of going to the Mennonite stand for an elderberry pies. They weren't supposed to smile and my dad made it his mission to get the girl to smile."

Organic greens salad, mainly from Newaukum Valley Farm (fennel, arugula, mixed farm lettuces)

When athletics didn't pan out in high school, Paul was uncertain about what was next. "I got into mechanical engineering and started cooking in restaurants. Working in a pub, I was talking to a guy who had made things like Béchamel sauce. I was making quesadillas. I thought 'this sounds cool.' Realizing engineering wasn't it, I went to chef school and then it all made sense. Their program placed you in work situations. I worked in a restaurant and a hotel. The restaurant made everything from scratch, and worked with farmers. That's when my passion became small, freestanding, independent restaurants with a farm-to-table focus. I've been fortunate to work in some of the top restaurants in Canada, one even raised their own livestock and crops. The whole out-of-the-ground-to-the-table stuck with me, particularly from my time at Eigensinn Farm working under Michael Stadtlander."

He moved to Langdon Hall Country House Hotel in Cambridge, Ontario, which had its own garden. "I worked with Chef Jonathan Gushue who taught me to taste. I learned about flavor and texture and how to balance flavors. Once you get this, you can create food in your head before you cook." Paul spent two years there, leaving in 2007. He moved to Vancouver, B.C., and worked at Cin Cin. "They make pasta from scratch, and Italian food is ingredient-driven. I learned how to refine things and keep them simple. Let the ingredient be what it is and give it accents."

He went on to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. "They had a farm they worked with that ended up being combined with the hotel. Everything they grew, they'd bring in weekly. We did an event for locals only called Meadows to Menus. It was a combination of community, farm, hotel. This was where I got re-introduced to keeping bees; my grandfather had them when I was three." He stayed for five years. "Things kept evolving. It was a lodge on 600 acres with different outdoor venues. I went back to basics, with Argentinian hanging grills, cooking over hardwood charcoal."

Halibut with leeks and carrots from Willowood Farm, clams from Penn Cove

Fairmont brought him to Seattle in 2016, then he became executive chef March 25, 2017. Shucker's is their busiest restaurant. "We've added local farm produce to pair with the seafood," explains Paul. "Breakfast in the Georgian Room is fantastic, and afternoon tea is a big draw. Last December, we stopped serving dinner and are still in the process of figuring out what the Georgian should be. You have to be relevant to compete."

New for the holidays is a life-sized gingerbread house that people will walk through as they enter from University Street. "We need about 4,500 gingerbread blocks and we've made about 2,000 so far. Our pastry chef, Artis Kalsons, has been here 18 years and he has really taken this on."

Overseeing a team of five chefs, 35 culinary staff, restaurants and room service is a big job. Paul sees it differently, "I feel like I've won the lottery."

Photos courtesy of Fairmont Olympic Hotel

Connie Adams/October 2017

Fairmont Olympic Hotel
411 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101


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