James Beard Award-winning Seattle chef Tom Douglas is a man whose name is synonymous with Pacific Northwest cuisine. Through five of Seattle's most creative and exciting restaurants, Tom and his wife and business partner, Jackie Cross, have helped define the Seattle food scene. Tom is also the author of three cookbooks, including the award-winning Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, and oversees a line of specialty food products sold nationwide. I've been lucky enough to get to know Tom since I moved to Seattle in '99 and his Palace Kitchen practically serves as a second home for me. Tom has been kind enough to have me as a regular guest on his weekly radio show to talk about cookbooks, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to interview him about about celebrity chefs, getting your kids involved in the kitchen, bloggers, his undying love of Seattle, and much more. Highlights from our talk are below. You can read the entire interview or listen to a podcast of the interview on Amazon Wire (gentle readers, please note: I was at the peak of a severe cold when we recorded this so I sound a bit like Lauren Bacall).
Amazon.com: First of all, how would you define Pacific Northwest cuisine?
Douglas: That's a cheap question.
Amazon.com: Too easy?
Douglas: [Laughs] Well, I've only been asked it for 25 years now and it's still a hard one to come by. I think it's in the context of a restaurant and for me restaurants are so much more than just their cuisine. I think the Seattle restaurant scene is a really fun--really up and down the Pacific Northwest coast. Portland's the same way... Vancouver. There's a certain sense of approachability. A certain sense of product. A celebration of the amazing bounty that we have here. Pacific Northwest cuisine is really about--kind of the same regionality that every other region has--things that come from here. I think the best way to explain to somebody from "the outside" is to use the salmon explanation.
When you are a chef in New York City or in Florida or in Dallas and you want salmon on your menu tonight you call your fish broker and you order salmon. You have some fresh salmon? Yeah? I'll take some salmon tonight. In Seattle, when you want salmon on your menu you call your fish guy and you say, What kind of salmon do you have tonight? Coho? King? Silvers? Keta? Where was it caught? What river? Campbell River? Yukon River? Copper River? Columbia River? Who caught it? Was it brought up right on the boat? Was it troll-caught? Gill-netted? Pursing caught? How was it bled? Did they bleed it right there on the boat or did they wait till they got to the dock and take it to the dockhouse and then take care of all the fish at one time? Or, as that fish was brought up, did somebody stop, bleed it, and pack its belly with ice and put it in the hold and go back three hours later to the shore and that afternoon put it on an Alaska Airlines jet down to Seattle? Oh, I'll take that one! I'll take that salmon that was King, troll-caught, boat-bled, caught this morning, on a plane this afternoon. That's the fish that I want!