Ever wonder what chefs eat when they’re cooking for themselves? Or what special gadgets and cooking tools they use in their home kitchens? In our Behind the Counter series, we’re profiling a few well-known Northwest chefs to see how they approach healthy eating and cooking both at their restaurants and at home.
Local chef John Howie is known for opening some of the best restaurants in the Seattle area. ZAGAT and Seattle Magazine have both recognized his first restaurant, Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar, as Seattle’s best seafood restaurant. Although he never attended culinary or business school, Chef Howie is the chef and proprietor of 5 successful restaurants, author of numerous cookbooks and is a regular on Seattle’s local TV and radio stations.
We talked to Chef Howie about his approach to sourcing fresh, local ingredients and making an amazing meal in your own kitchen. What are some of the chef’s favorite dishes to make at home? Italian pastas, tacos, mesquite grilled steaks, plank roasted pork chops, salsa and a great omelet.
ANW: How would you describe your overall approach to cooking?
Howie: Always use the best seasonal and local products available, cook them properly. Add subtle or bold flavors from world cuisines and present them as art on the plate.
ANW: How does your approach influence the foods you serve in your restaurants?
Howie: I serve the foods that I love – always using the best, freshest, seasonal, local foods available. I love traveling and being introduced to new cultures and cuisines. I then try to bring those experiences back to my restaurants with a touch of my personality added in.
ANW: What are your favorite seasonal foods in the Northwest?
Howie: I think the Northwest has the best mushrooms, with the largest variety of anywhere in the country. We use Foraged & Found for our local wild mushrooms, truffles and unique foraged greens. The late summer heirloom melons and tomatoes from the Okanogan can’t be beat. Olmstead Orchards in Grandview has the best Rainer and Bing cherries every year. The Columbia River Spring Chinook Salmon are the best salmon we have each year. The Sturgeon is great, too. I think the Washington Dungeness crab is the best of the breed, the sweetest and most flavorful. I also love the baby greens from Willie Greens Organic Farm in Monroe, Wash.
ANW: Are there any kitchen tools or gadgets home cooks should use or try?
Howie: I love my garlic peeler. It’s a rubber tube that you place a clove of garlic in and roll it between your hands. The skin comes right off and the clove is left whole and not bruised. Of course, a knife that feels right in your hands is the most important tool for any kitchen.
ANW: Where can we find your recipes?
Howie: I have several recipes for plank cooking at www.plankcooking.com. Also, my cookbook Passion & Palate: Recipes for a Generous Table has more than 240 great recipes and can be purchased at any of my restaurants. The proceeds from Passion & Palate are used to further our philanthropic efforts throughout the community.
ANW: What’s the key to preparing amazing meals?
Howie: Use fresh ingredients, have great timing, cook to your taste, season your foods properly and make it with love!
Photo of John Howie courtesy of Angie Norwood Browne.