Competition is good, right? Unless it turns cut-throat, as sometimes happens in the food industry. Just watch Iron Chef.
Seattle leads the way in another form of competition, one that encourages cooperation. For some, like chef Christian Chandler of Eastlake’s Serafina, it’s as simple as drawing from the talent pool at his former haunt, Lecosho in downtown Seattle, to offer extra shifts or a spot on his roster. For others, it’s a bit more involved. Regardless, consumers prove the major beneficiaries.
Here, FoodableTV spotlights several of Seattle's stellar culinary collaborations.
Chefs Holly Smith & John Sundstrom | Expansion, Renovation, and Pop-Ups
Timing is everything, especially in the restaurant industry. Late last winter, about the time that chef John Sundstrom of Seattle’s famed Lark restaurant was decamping to larger quarters on Capitol Hill, chef Holly Smith was purchasing and about to renovate her popular Kirkland venue, Cafe Juanita.
Lark needed the old space filled and Cafe Juanita needed to stay viable during renovations. Voila! Out of two seemingly dire dilemmas arose one simple, stunning solution - the birth of ‘Pop-Up Cafe Juanita’ in the old Lark site.
The pop-up caters to Cafe Juanita customers during renovations, and allows Lark breathing room to focus on the new digs without worrying about additional overhead or the head-aches of pulling resources to cover the old site while getting the new one up to speed.
At the end of the day, customers enjoy seamless service at both restaurants, and chefs reap the long-term benefits of keeping loyal fans happy during the short-term growth spurts.
Chef Ethan Stowell | Eat Run Hope
Chefs just want to have fun! Every June, chef Ethan Stowell and his wife Angela host Eat Run Hope, a 5K run, walk, children's fun-run and fabled tasting event held at Seattle’s Magnuson Park.
Now in its fourth year, the event attracts a rock-star roster of local culinary talent for a throw-down in the Chefs' Pavilion, including The Bacon Adventure Chef Challenge - a mad dash between chefs, bacon and batons.
Collaborating luminaries include Ethan Stowell Restaurants, Tom Douglas Restaurant, Taste at SAM (Seattle Art Museum), The Wandering Goose, Miller’s Guild, Luc, McCracken-Tough, Huxley Wallace Collective, Revel, Terra Plata, Macrina Bakery, Cupcake Royale, Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, Hitchcock, Mamnoon, Molly Moon’s, plus coffee brewed by Caffe Vita, artisan beer on tap by Stoup Brewing, and hand-crafted cocktails mixed up by Bastille and Rob Roy. That’s a lot of cooperation.
Even local food industry purveyors get in on the hug-fest, including Caviar, Corfini Gourmet, Merlino Foods, and Charlie’s Produce.
Folks participate for a good reason. Last year, the event launched the Nathanael & Gabriel Stowell Memorial Research Grant, awarding $25,000 to projects that further the study of fetal health, a subject close to the Stowell’s hearts. At the end of the day, this collaboration is about building, maintaining, and enhancing community - consumers and kitchen talent alike.
Chefs Lynne Vea and Becky Selengut | Dueling Divas
“Two chefs, same ingredients, two menus - what a blast!” So goes the tag-line for Dueling Divas, a PCC Cooks (part of PCC Natural Markets) recurring cult classic, starring local celebrity chefs Lynne Vea and Becky Selengut.
Chef Lynne Vea, graduate of the prestigious Executive Chef Program at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, is a local media chef (Evening Magazine, KING5’s Gardening with Ciscoe), and instructor for PCC Natural Markets. Chef Becky Selengut is a private chef, cooking teacher, and author of Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook, Good Fish, and Shroom: Mindbendingly Good Recipes for Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms.
The premise of Dueling Divas? Two chefs share the same kitchen, audience, and identical list of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and paired wines, but prepare two different menus (hence the dueling) for famished foodies. Consumers walk away with a fabulous meal, friendly-fire banter between dueling divas, and some great recipes.
This collaboration is contagious. Favorite PCC artisan wine maker Ron Lachini of Willamette Valley’s Lachini Vineyards was so smitten by the Duelings Divas that he convinced them to reprise their roles for a special reception and cooking demonstration at his Woodinville tasting room last year.
The sold-out event included five courses featuring five ingredients: duck, cherries, nettles, emmer, and fennel, all paired with five of Lachini’s wines, followed by a port-infused after-demo social with the chefs.
As the Dueling Divas illustrates, culinary collaborations can be intoxicating for chefs and consumers alike.