While we have a tendency to revere chefs for their ability to create dishes we could never possibly hope to duplicate in our own homes, there is a certain undeniable appeal of chefs who use their considerable skills in the kitchen while infusing their creations with a sense of traditionalism and the comforts of home. And when it comes to balancing those two world, Renee Erickson is in a class by herself.
Renee’s dishes are frequently lauded by other chefs for their simplicity. Renowned author Molly Wizenberg once praised Renee, saying: “Her cooking is like no one else’s: thoughtful but seemingly effortless, evocative of France but firmly rooted in the Northwest,” while Cathy Whims (chef/owner of Nostrana) once noted, “Renee’s heartfelt menus inspire me to gather my dearest friends, uncork some bottles of wine, break out the copper pots and experience the casual graciousness of her table in my own home, no matter the season.”
And for those who think that traditional or comfort food can’t receive critical acclaim, Renee and her James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Northwest” in 2016 would beg to differ. Indeed, Renee has found a way to balance the artistry of cooking and the emotions her creations should evoke in her guests, and her restaurants (and us) are better off for it.
Specialties & Resources
Many chefs strive to evoke the feeling of effortless comfort food in their creations, but there are very few who do it so masterfully as Renee. As a Seattle-based chef, her main focus is naturally on the bounty of the ocean, and her three nautical-themed restaurants showcase her vast array of culinary skills. General Porpoise, Renee’s coffee and doughnut shop, offer simple yet refined doughnuts such as chocolate marshmallow, lemon curd, huckleberry cream, plum and apple jam, and vanilla custard.
Away from the realm of breakfast foods, Renee’s The Whale Wins offers such varied creations as hama hama clams with coconut curry, carrot, potato and mizuna, halibut wrapped in fig leaf with summer squash, sri Lankan curry, chickpea, fregola sarda and medjool dates, salt-roasted half chicken with peach mostarda, roasted chicory, smoked grape and spicy cashews, and dry-aged beef sausage with yogurt-fermented peppers, currants in molasses and shishito peppers.
Meanwhile, Renee’s Restaurant Bateau offers veal sweetbreads, beef neck pastrami tartare, octopus with chorizo, potato and egg, and reuben mille feuille with cabbage and Russian dressing. Whatever the realm, Renee has proven she can create dishes that evoke memories of home while creating a new fine dining experience that is sure to be remembered fondly by guests for years to come.