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Chef Jay Midwood Picks Apart His Palate and Shares His Inspiration

The talented Seattle chef describes his approach to cooking Italian with a light seasonal touch.

Our Road to Voracious cooking series continues in August with Chef Jay Midwood. He will take the class on a shopping tour of Pike Market then prepare a meal with seasonal fresh ingredients and an Italian touch. Learn a little more about what inspires Chef Jay, then make your plans to join the class on August 13th.

You were most recently a chef at Triumph Bar in Seattle. Where else have you worked in Seattle and elsewhere? I moved here from Boston three years ago and was working at Seatown in the market for Tom Douglas. After I left Tom, I was a chef for Ethan Stowell, a roving sous chef, going wherever they needed me. I worked in every one of his restaurants—doing everything from pasta production to pastry. I also opened up Jack’s (the Texas BBQ restaurant in Georgetown).

Your market dinner features Italian food. What is the inspiration behind it? My heritage is Italian, on my father’s side—and I worked on the north side of Boston for a few years. Though Japanese food is my first love, I think that Italian and Japanese food share a similar mindset, and they’re both very pasta-based.

The menu takes a very light approach to Italian, with shrimp scampi and market vegetables and a bresaola salad. Do you prefer that style? Yeah, I always enjoy eating that way. I’ve never been a person to eat one big plate of something. I enjoy individual small things. I have a sensitive palette. I don’t drink whiskey, for instance, because it’s too strong on my palate. Even when I braise meat, I use a lot of vegetable and fruit and aromatics. I like to let natural ingredients speak for themselves. I do a lot of fermentation, dehydration, preserves. I like taking an ingredient and seeing all the things it can become. Take a simple strawberry. It’s great in-season, but you pickle it or preserve it and enjoy it all year.

You’ll be serving a cured meat at the dinner right? Yes, my first course for the market dinner is a salad with air dried beef, traditional Italian bresaola. I cure eye-round beef in salt, wine, garlic and a bunch of aromatics for four days. Then I wrap it in cheesecloth, rinse it off and hang it in the refrigerator for four days. It slices paper-thin. The outside of it is a dark purple edge from the wine, and then you slice into it and see the red of the cured meat in the middle. It starts as six-and-a-half pounds of meat and ends up at two-and-a-half pounds.

Participants will walk the market with you? Any places you’ll be visiting to gather ingredients? I always go to Don and Joe’s for meat, especially now that my friend from Boston is working there. And Frank’s Produce; they’re who I use when I’m working in restaurants. They know how to work with smaller restaurants because they started in the market as a small, independent farm stand, so they have a lot more appreciation for the little guy. I just bought some really nice heirloom tomatoes and fennel there.

What’s your favorite snack in the market, when you have down-time and aren’t seeking out ingredients for work? Mee Sum, the Chinese pastry place…the steamed buns. Hands down, that’s my favorite snack in the market. When I first saw it, I absolutely freaked out!

Join us on the Road to Voracious, regularly at Pike Place Market’s Atrium Kitchen. Space is limited, so grab your ticket here.

Seattle Weekly’s Voracious Tasting & Food Awards will be October 6, 2016 at Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center

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