Seattle Chefs Discuss the Challenges of Winter Sourcing While Maintaining Local, Seasonal Menus

Are you a hypocrite if you ‘outsource’ menu items advertised as ‘locally grown’ during the dearth of winter?

Many Seattle chefs reliant on regional abundance face this dilemma. In a town that prides itself on authenticity, transparency, and sustainability, the problem proves notjust a logistical one, but an ethical one. “Can I look my guests in the eye and still feel good about what I’m serving?”

How Seattle-area chefs deal with scarcity varies. Yet few fail to overcome the obstacle.

Here, FoodableTV shares Seattle top chefs’ secrets to dealing with winter sourcing challenges:

Chef Brian Scheehser| Trellis Restaurant - Heathman Kirkland 

Chef Brian Scheehser of Trellis Restaurant has honed the art of improvisation over his impressive 30-year culinary career. A dedicated proponent of seasonal, farm-to-table fare, Chef Brian tends his own 18-acre plot in Woodinville’s South 47 Farm. But winter changes things up for this veteran.

Local Seattle Farm | Foodable WebTV Network

Local Seattle Farm | Foodable WebTV Network

“We are spoiled with the farm and the beautiful tomatoes that we harvest throughout the growing season,” he explains. “So we struggle not having access to tomatoes in the winter time that are ripe and flavorful, as well as specialty herbs. That and the fact that we cannot grow local berries this time of year. The biggest struggle is the tomatoes though, as we use them in a lot of our dishes.”

To retain that robust taste of summer, Scheehser processes his beloved heirloom tomatoes at their peak for use in winter soups and sauces. Other efforts to extend seasonal zing include freezing large quantities - over nine hundred pounds in 2015 -of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, as well as installing a root cellar to store and cold cellar his farm produce.

He also limits his menu selections during off-months to deter the need for outsourcing. But Trellis Restaurant anchors the Heathman Hotel, so guest expectations run high.

If faced with a guest need, he may procure limited amounts of the item, taking pains to track down artisan purveyors up and down the West Coast.

Chef/Owner Derek Ronspies | Le Petit Cochon, Fremont 

Derek Ronspies of Fremont’s Le Petit Cochon takes his quixotic, offal-centric menu sourcing seriously.

"As a restaurant that works strictly with local farmers there are a few challenges that arise in the winter. In the summertime pretty much all the farmers we deal with deliver their produce right to the restaurant. In the winter deliveries are pretty much non existent. This means time on Saturdays and Sundays are spent at the University and Ballard farmers markets. It sometimes is a burden but it is also great to get back to the market and see all our farmer friends and get to pick out the best of what they have to offer. Being local means we are not getting tomatoes and avocados from California so in the winter it's lot’s of squash and sun chokes and root vegetablesSo in the summer when the bounty is plentiful we store up by freezing and pickling all kinds of fruit and vegetables so our guests can have a taste of summer in the dead of winter.”  

As these Seattle chefs show, clever culinary improv proves its possible to deftly sidestep the scarcities of winter without compromising quality, or flavor.