First Harvest Dinner
Date: 7/25/12 - 7/26/12
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: The Willows Inn on Lummi Island
FIRST HARVEST DINNER
at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island
On July 25-26, 2012 The Willows Inn on Lummi Island served as host to an exclusive First Harvest Dinner with six of the world’s most talented Chefs from across the nation and one from Europe. This collaborative culinary event was the first of its kind, coordinated to capture the abundance of the island’s yield of fish, sun-kissed produce, hand-raised livestock, and edible foliage.
Together, all six award-winning chefs submitted to a friendly 24-hour harvest challenge. The rules of the challenge required that they sourced all ingredients they used in the preparation of each prix fixe through salmon reef-netting, foraging, and harvesting from local farms.
This sold-out event was by invitation only, limited to 40 guests each evening. One attendee commented afterward, “This was the best meal I’ve had in my entire life.”
BLAINE WETZEL – Willows Inn on Lummi Island
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Wetzel started working in kitchens when he was 14 years old, and he has never stopped. He has studied and apprenticed widely, notably as Rene Redzepi’s sous-chef at Noma, considered by some to be the best restaurant in the world. Redzepi has called the 25-year-old Wetzel a “rare and amazing talent.” Since coming to Lummi Island, Wetzel has attracted international attention. In 2011, the New York Times declared Willows Inn on Lummi Island “One of the 10 Restaurants (in the world) Worth a Plane Ride.” His meals are characterized by commitment to local ingredients and traditions, and a provocative yet honest relationship to food. Those who journey to this small, green island just south of Canada are treated to salmon caught around the corner, seaweed gathered from the beach out front, berries plucked from the back fields. Wetzel’s food brings you into an intimate relationship with the landscape he loves, allowing you to touch, taste, see, and smell the ocean, the coastal lands, the soft gray light on the water.
JOHN B SHIELDS – former owner of Town House Restaurant
Chef John B. Shields attended culinary school in St. Louis and worked in local restaurants there after graduation. Shields then spent two years working as sous-chef at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. In 2005 Shields took a position as sous-chef with Grant Achatz at Alinea, and he worked there during the time that Alinea grew from an exciting upstart to one of the best restaurants in the world. In 2008 he and then fiancé pastry chef Karen Urie turned down an offer to lead the opening of a Las Vegas restaurant, and instead they took a bold chance on an opportunity at an unknown restaurant called Town House in tiny Chilhowie, Va. John and Karen were given cart blanche to re-imagine the restaurant. With them in complete creative control, their newly-launched restaurant quickly gained national attention. Shields soon thereafter earned a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine in 2010, as well as a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist in 2011. After four successful years at Town House, Chefs John and Karen are now in the process of growing their culinary careers, moving to Philadelphia where they are busy in the pursuit of opening their own restaurant.
SEAN BROCK – McCrady’s Restaurant
Sean Brock was born and raised in rural Virginia where his family grew their own food, which left a deep impression on him. Venturing out of Virginia to attend school, Brock landed at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C. Upon graduation, Brock started his professional career studying with chefs at world-class restaurants in Charleston, S.C.; Richmond, Va., and Nashville, Tenn. Brock spent almost three years fine-tuning his craft in Nashville before accepting a position as executive chef at McCrady’s Restaurant back in Charleston, S.C.
In November 2010, Chef Brock opened his second restaurant with the Neighborhood Dining Group, Husk. Just down the street from McCrady’s, Husk is a celebration of Southern ingredients, serving only food that is indigenous to the South. The emphasis at Husk is on the ingredients and the people who grow them, and a large chalkboard lists artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen.
Brock’s abilities have resulted in a number of awards and accolades, both locally and nationally. He won the James Beard Best Chef: Southeast award in 2010 and most recently was nominated for the 2012 James Beard Outstanding Chef award. He was the winner of the Next Great Chef episode of the “Food Network Challenge” and appeared on “Iron Chef America” in December 2010, taking on Michael Symon in “Battle Pork Fat.” Bon Appétit magazine named Husk “Best New Restaurant in America” in September 2011.
JASON FOX – Commonwealth Restaurant
Jason Fox is the Executive Chef and co-owner of Commonwealth restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District. Since opening Commonwealth in 2010, Fox has garnered popular and critical acclaim from the SF Weekly, San Francisco Magazine, and three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle where critic Michael Bauer wrote, “A fundamental shift is occurring in the restaurant business, with chefs producing serious food in casual surroundings. And Commonwealth is the pacesetter.” The restaurant has been featured in prominent national publications including Bon Appétit, Saveur, Gentleman’s Quarterly, The New York Times, and Food & Wine magazine.
KOBE DESRAMAULTS – In De wulf Restaurant
KYLE CONNAUGHTON – Culinary Director for Steve Ells at Chipotle
Kyle Connaughton grew up cooking in Los Angeles for such restaurants as Spago Beverly Hills, Kishi, Lucques, AOC, and the Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton Huntington. After stints in several Japanese kitchens in Southern California and upon graduating from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts he attended the California Sushi Academy, completing his apprenticeship in Sushi restaurants in Los Angeles, and Kobe, Japan. Having a passion for culinary education, Connaughton was a chef instructor and department chair for the Le Cordon Bleu School before departing again for Japan.
During his second tenure in Japan he was as a chef in Toya, Hokkaido for the second location of Michel Bras, a Michelin 3-Star restaurant in Laguiole, France. Connaughton spent three years there looking after the vegetable section of the menu, including the gargouillou–the heart of the Bras cuisine comprising wild and foraged vegetables, herbs, and roots. While in Japan he also worked in several of the top Japanese cuisine kitchens of traditional kaiseki, sushi, and soba, and izakaya style dining. Upon completion of his time in Japan, Connaughton headed to the United Kingdom to open and serve as Head Chef of Research and Development for the next five years at the Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen with Heston Blumenthal. Working with food scientists, historic and culinary researchers, perfumers, and sensory scientists Connaughton oversaw the development work for the Michelin 3-Star Fat Duck restaurant which was voted “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2006.
In 2010 Connaughton returned to the U.S. to work on several development projects, including contributing recipes, technical information, and editing for the Modernist Cuisine book series. He also has provided program and curriculum development for the Culinary Institute of America’s newly-forming Culinary Science Bachelor of Professional Studies, and process development and sous vide technology consulting to Avenir. He is now the Culinary Director for Steve Ells at Chipotle, working to leverage technology and traditional cooking methods to further the Food With Integrity mission of the company.