jeff maxfield space needle3.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Jeff Maxfield has infused Northwest ingredients into Sky City's menu.
Jeff Maxfield, Sky City chef at the Space Needle, has been


Jeff Maxfield, Sky City Chef, Not Afraid to Admit He Eats Top Ramen

jeff maxfield space needle3.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Jeff Maxfield has infused Northwest ingredients into Sky City's menu.
Jeff Maxfield, Sky City chef at the Space Needle, has been back in his old stomping grounds since 2008, seasoned after opening three restaurants in Arizona. He's changed the focus of the menu, bringing it back to local ingredients. Read part one of our Grillaxin Q&A to learn more about his early career.

SW: How have things changed since you've been back?

Maxfield: The food scene in Seattle has been great for the past 15 years. Even in the year I was gone, I came back and was like "wow" look at all these new places that have opened and these places had closed. The Space Needle had gotten away from that Northwest cuisine we were striving for. They had stuff flown in from the East Coast. They were struggling with food costs. So, we started with the basics again, sourcing the best local products that are available. The struggle was getting the team to get along and work together.

SW: That's really a chef's greatest challenge, right?

Maxfield: We've got 65 full time employees on our schedule and a management team of four people, a chef de cuisine, a banquet chef and two sous chefs. When we were hiring, we really put people to the test and a lot of those people are still here. They're some of our strongest people.

SW: What do you like to cook at home?

Maxfied: Fish is my favorite. My sister lives over on Hood Canal. We get a bunch of clams and oysters. I might do oysters five different ways including a take on oysters Rockefeller that Rocky Tamaguchi at Canlis taught me. But I'm not ashamed to say if I'm really tired I'll make Top Ramen. I'll grab some chives off the deck and throw them in there. I cook simply at home. I had an egg dish in Chicago a while back, eggs baked on a simple tomato sauce and topped with Parmesan. I've been trying to recreate that.

SW: What's your favorite herb?

Maxfield: My favorite herb is thyme because it's not really seasonal. If you want to do a little grilled stone fruit relish in the summer or roast chicken in the winter. My mom always had a big herb garden and thyme and rosemary were the easiest to grow.

SW: If you were coming to Sky City as a diner, what would you order?

beef carpaccio sky city.jpg
Here's what the chef would order as a starter: smoked tenderloin carpaccio.
Maxfield: I would start with the prime tenderloin carpaccio. That's prime Northwest beef from Double R Ranch that we lightly smoke and slice it real thin. It's got Beecher's curds and Oregon truffles. Our spinach salad is classic. We're switching the cheese on that to a Mt. Townsend Trailhead because it's great to shave on top of that. I just put duck on the menu. It's like a traditional cassoulet, but wrapped in a crepeinette.

SW: How do the servers explain what a crepeinette is?

Maxfield: We explained to our servers what caul fat is (the fatty membrane that surrounds organs in pigs and cows) and they're like: "Do you want us to say that?" We're like, no, you can say it's a package wrapped in a casing. Something that's familiar to our clientele.

SW: Is it frustrating that you don't get more locals in here?

Maxfield: I can understand it this time of year, but in the winter, I would love for our dining room to be filled with locals. It's frustrating that locals don't think the Space Needle is a great place to come. I totally get that.

SW: It has had a reputation for years of being really expensive and the food has not been worth it.

Maxfield: We did an event last night and the host chef was doing mini bios and basically said the Space Needle sucks and that really hurt. When I hear stuff like that I want to say, yeah when was the last time you were here? Even if it was five years ago, you really need to come back.

In part three of this week's Grillaxin, chef Jeff Maxfield shares his recipe for short ribs.

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