Tatste of Tulalip: Back of the House

I've spent over 20 years working in the restaurant industry and for me, the kitchen is an undeniable lure. Thomas Keller, executive chef of culinary bastions including The French Laundry, Bouchon, Per Se, and Ad Hoc, calls professional cooking a "dance." To me, it's a physical and creative battle that when done well, is more like poetry in action. Whether I'm working or not, when I get the chance, the kitchen is the pace I want to be.

While you may not live in Washington...or in the U.S. for that matter, I hope you'll cull universal elements from this photo essay.

November 13 -14th, 60 Washington state and 20 Napa Valley wineries will be featured at the Taste of Tulalip. It's a jam-packed 2 day event and in addition to the wines, Tulalip's award-winning chefs will be strutting their stuff. (See menus below.)

Earlier this month, a group of writers and food bloggers were invited to preview the menus.

Yes, that's right.


We were served two tasting menus--plus wine flights--back-to-back. (You're feeling sorry for me, right?) The food was incredible, but even better? They gave me kitchen access. So instead of tweeting most of the night (it was a Tweet-up, after all), I was hanging out with the staff.

Wanna peek in the kitchen? Come along with me....

This looks promising, doesn't? Surprise! More wines to follow with the second tasting menu. Good thing I stayed over night!

Commemorative plate preview.

While the other guests were engrossed with electronic devices, I took a peek in the kitchen.

Meet Raja. If you think of the kitchen as theater, this guy is the director. He heads off any potential problems and paced our multi-course dinner. A big, heartfult thank you to Raja, who gave me carte blanche kitchen access.

With a name like that, he was destined to rule, eh?
Raja = East Indian prince or monarch. Julius = Roman ruler.

Tulalip Resort has five restaurants and for our meal, the chefs alternated courses. Here's the Excecutive crew.

Salad prep, with a chive garnish

Here's the chef in charge of our 1st course.

1st course, waiting in the wings--an expansive hallway between the kitchen and the ballroom.

Dungeness & Alaskan Crab 'Sushi' with wild rice, sesame lavash and avocado wasabi foam (Notice the layers? King crab, wild rice, and dungeness. I wasn't a fan of the wild rice component. The firm rice + crab = odd mouth feel. I kept thinking I was stumbling on crab bones and the rice did little to show off the crab. Otherwise, stunning presentation.)

To the dining room...

Between courses.

Plated and and headed to the holding station.

Server down time, taking in the kitchen action.

"Here, have a taste!" This salmon eventually made it's way onto the white & red Miso salmon with Miso rice, lemon butter tamari mushroom medley and inari-nori slaw course.

Plating the apple lacquered Pacific halibut over savory fennel-butternut squash bread pudding

Hotel kitchens are huge! Here's a look inside the walk in.
Skull Syrah from the Charles Smith vineyard

Chef Dean Shinagawa redies a plate for presentation.

His course...my favorite of the night: Wagyu beef short ribs and certified Angus beef tenderloin with blue cheese, potato, shiitake, sun dried cherries and cabernet demi-glace, topped with those crispy fried onions.


Exquisite butter-poached scallops.
Overhead look at the assembly line.

A final drizzle of butter topped these succulent butter poached sea scallops, garnished with crushed toasted pine nuts.
Behold, dessert for 50. Each plate had multiple components, yet much of the work was done in advance. Last minute finishing touches included garnishes for the baby fondant cake (on the left) and the milk chocolate cremosa (2nd from the left).
Work in progress....

“A study in chocolate” with white chocolate cream, milk chocolate cremosa, 55% chocolate ganache filled raspberries and 72% dark chocolate baby fondant cake.

For tickets and scoop about the 2nd Annual Taste of Tulalip, click here.