Executive Restaurant Chef Craig Hetherington
Seattle Art Museum
Location: Seattle, Washington
Number of people fed each day: 200-300
With Bon Appétit Management Company since: 2007
Farm to Fork Farmer: Full Circle Farms and Skagit River Ranch
“Being located downtown near Pike Place Market makes us part of the vibrant, local food scene. We have access to native fresh seafood, wonderful farmstead cheeses, wild mushrooms, and the most flavorful just-picked vegetables available anywhere. Every day I’m absolutely inspired by what we have right here in the
Pacific Northwest. Our local cuisine is the cornerstone of everything we do. If someone in the kitchen comes up with a great idea for a dish, we first see if we can get the ingredients locally. If we can’t get them, or we’re unable to adapt the dish using local ingredients, we don’t make it. It’s as simple as that.”
Why I work with food:
I got my first scar at the age of five peeling potatoes with my mom. I was always in the kitchen when I was growing up. My whole family cooks, so this isn’t so strange. Because my family is a very food-focused family, I learned from an early age the power food has to bring people together. My earliest memories are of sitting around the table for hours with the whole family, talking and eating together. Becoming a chef was a natural progression. I started working in restaurants as soon as I was old enough to work, and went through the culinary program at
Community College. My first job out of culinary school was for a high-end catering company right here in
Seattle. It was there that I learned about seasonality, which is not something chefs are always taught in school. It was part of my job to go to the farmers’ market to buy the day’s produce and that’s where I began to develop the relationships with farmers that I still carry on today. Here at SAM, I love having the freedom to purchase the best available from local producers and write my menus accordingly. I cook pretty simply to showcase our local ingredients and to stay true to the food. There are never more than a few elements to a plate. I serve a seared local halibut accompanied by nothing more than a perfect potato galette made with local
Yukons and a simple braise of fennel and rhubarb. In spring you might find a risotto made with local morel mushrooms, green garlic, and baby beets. Almost any time of the year when I look at our menus, we’re using about 75% to 80% local ingredients. That’s something I’m very proud of.
What sustainability means to me:
Sustainability has become such a catch word that I feel the definition can mean almost anything, depending on the agenda of the person using the word. I define sustainability as doing things responsibly and having accountability. In fact, our motto here is “taste responsibly.” Not only are we responsible for sourcing products in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but we are also responsible for and accountable to our communities. I purchase everything I possibly can from local producers because my purchases have a direct impact by keeping money in our local economy. Though someone in
Iowa may be making sustainably produced artisan cured meats, I’d rather purchase a local product. I will go out of my way to seek out local, sustainable producers rather than going with well-known producers elsewhere. It’s not enough just to buy the products locally. I also feel responsible to help spread the word to keep these people in business. Showcasing a local producer’s products on my menus and holding farmer and winemaker dinners is a great way to expose our diners to the wonderful products right here in their own backyards. I feel like if I’m not supporting some of these small producers, I’m responsible if they cease to exist. I get a kick out of showcasing items like Skagit River Ranch Hot Italian Sausage on a pizza with local arugula, cheese, and herbs. Or local eggs in a frittata with local sweet peas, and chèvre.
Why Bon Appétit Management Company is Different:
Because I’m given the freedom to menu in the way that I feel is most sustainable for my community, and am encouraged to push even further than our 20% local commitment, I feel absolutely supported in what I do here. If Bon Appétit Management Company wasn’t always swimming upstream and pushing the envelope into more and more sustainable practices, I wouldn’t work here.