Jon Rowley's Quest for Flavor

Flavor guru, Jon Rowley

This is the first installment of a series called:
Books That Paved the Way, highlighting culinary luminaries and the books that influenced their careers.

Jon Rowley's humble and unassuming nature reveals little about the man who has dedicated himself to a life in food. Tirelessly working in the background, going wherever good flavor takes him, Jon's influence reverberates across the culinary landscape. From oysters to peaches, Jon's quest for flavor--and how it's achieved, has taken him around the world. Saveur Magazine named him "America's Disciple of Flavor" and if you ever heard of Copper River Salmon, Jon's the reason why.

This summer I received a lesson in umami...hovered over a strawberry patch. The mission? Shuksan strawberries. As Jon explained, the berries--ruby red through to the center, were too fragile for retail viability but yield the quintessential "strawberry" flavor. Used largely for commercial purposes, Shuksans represent the gold standard for strawberries. Haagen Daz corners a large share of the market, but if you're lucky....and you know where to find them, Shuksans are an incredible flavor experience. They're ripe just two weeks a year, so when Jon says, "Meet me in a strawberry field at 8:00 AM," I drop everything and go!

Books That Paved the Way:

1. Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji.
Fabulous introduction by MFK Fisher. Well organized by technique. Easy to follow. Results oriented. Each recipe imparts Japanese food aesthetics and culture in appealing, low-key manner.

2. Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher.
A recipe for life but many good and entertaining oyster recipes.

3. The Unprejudiced Palate by Angelo Pellegrini,with afterword by M.F. K. Fisher.
Most influential book for me. Recipe for life. Teaches how to approach cooking and eating rather than actual recipes.

4. Joy of Cooking (the original). by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Indispensable, wide-ranging American classic. Well-researched, dependable. Been with me since I started cooking.

5. A Well-Seasoned Appetite: Recipes for the Eating with the Seasons, The Senses and the Soul by Molly O'Neil.
I like this book for the recipes and writing but especially for the title. Just having it prominently on my kitchen shelf inspires and reminds me what I am about.


Working with farmers and fishermen, restaurants and retailers, Jon Rowley’s career has been a life-long exploration and quest to improve the quality, flavor, and understanding of fish, shellfish, fruits and vegetables. He and David Lett have been the only Northwest inductees into the prestigious James Beard “Who’s Who of Cooking Professionals in America”. He was named on the 2008 SAVEUR Top 100 List, is a member of the Shaw’s Crab House Oyster Hall of Fame in Chicago, is the founding member of the Chicago Historical Society, recipient of the Seattle Weekly’s Angelo Pellegrini Award and served as Contributing Editor of Gourmet magazine. (

Catch Jon on Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth, Episode Two, airing next week.