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Chef Megan Coombes Cooks Up a Modern Take on Oktoberfest

The Altstadt executive chef and general manager does the German tradition a little differently.

We have one last stop in our Road to Voracious cooking series and this class will feature Altstadt’s Executive Chef and General Manager, Megan Coombes. With Oktoberfest in mind, Megan will take the class on a shopping tour of Pike Place Market before preparing a seasonal three-course meal. Lederhosen not required, but this class will bring together German food and our Pacific Northwest bounty. Get to know Chef Megan a little more and make you plans to join us in class on September 10.

How did you get interested in German food? I studied in Germany in high school and college, but I came to cooking later in life, after leaving marketing and non-profit jobs. While going to The French Culinary Institute in New York, I interned at the Michelin-starred Austrian restaurant Wallse.

Your class at the market will focus on Oktoberfest, perfect timing obviously. But you’ll be doing some twists on classics. Tell us how you get inspired by seasonal ingredients to change up or add to some of these recipes? When Altstadt first opened it was more of a brat shop, but I really wanted to refocus it on modern German cuisine. Everyone knows about the super-thin, pounded schnitzel from one hundred years ago, but can we make a bratwurst better using heritage ingredients? Washington is on the same latitude as Germany, so a lot of the ingredients translate. Cherries and apples are huge in German cooking for instance, and Washington has a great bounty of those. Germany is really into white asparagus, so how can we treat the green asparagus here in the same kinds of ways?

There’s a lot of beer involved in the dishes…Talk to us about using beer in cooking. A lot of people think of wine and food, but Germans regularly drink beer with food so it really makes sense. I think that cooking with beer adds different flavors that would otherwise require different techniques. Like our beer fondue…the floral notes of the beer really enhance the cheeses and lighten what can otherwise be a very heavy dish. Our pork shank uses beer too, and dessert will have stout in it because those nice chocolate notes really lend themselves to cooking. And we aren’t just using German beers, but local types too. It’s fun to try different ones.

Participants will walk the market with you to shop for the ingredients. Tell us about some of the places you like to visit? I use to live near the market so I used to go to Frank’s a lot for produce because of the great variety. And we use Beecher’s cheese in a couple of things too. And even though we make our own sausages [at Altstadt], I love Uli’s. They have like 30 different varieties…

When you’re not shopping for work or classes, tell us your favorite place to get a snack in the market? Piroshky Piroshky! In the morning on the way to work with coffee…that cardamom twist is so good. I love that place.

What is the single most important thing people will learn in your class? It’s the same thing we do at the restaurant—try to give a different appreciation for German food. A lot of people think it can’t be light or super flavorful. They’ll also be able to take some of the techniques that seem daunting—like pretzel making—and use them at home.

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 take place on October 6, 2016 at Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center. Ticket info here.

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