chef anthony.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Anthony Polizzi makes diners happy at Steelhead.
Anthony Polizzi, Steelhead Diner 's chef de cuisine, has loved hanging out in the


Steelhead Diner's Chef Anthony Is a Recovering Business Major

chef anthony.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Anthony Polizzi makes diners happy at Steelhead.
Anthony Polizzi, Steelhead Diner's chef de cuisine, has loved hanging out in the kitchen since he was a kid. But he didn't think it was going to be a career. The native New Yorker studied business and got a job in Los Angeles, but kept feeling the tug of the professional kitchen. Now, he's the man at this wildly popular restaurant at Pike Place Market. His boss, Kevin Davis, said he couldn't have opened his second place, Blueacre Seafood, without Anthony's calm, steady presence at Steelhead. (He's no pot thrower. That's his goal, anyway.)

SW: Tell us about your first memories of being in the kitchen?

Anthony: Raised by an Italian family in New York, I have been around food since I was very little. Food has been something that has been an integral part of my life as my mother and grandmothers have been very serious about cooking and food. Even my grandfather knew his way around a kitchen. When I was young I would sit at my grandparent's kitchen table watching as he would poach eggs in some tomato sauce for our lunch. Man, that was so good. I remember dipping that crusty New York bakery semolina bread in that sauce. I can still smell the oregano.

SW: Did they teach you to cook?

Anthony: I would say they had a huge influence on my cooking as I to this day remember numerous dishes that they prepared for me through my life that have influenced my cooking such as Maine Lobster with Spaghetti and Diablo Sauce, or my one grandmother's Crab Stuffed Baked Flounder, or my other grandmother's Herb Vinaigrette for her Butter Lettuce Salads.

SW: Did you go to cooking school?

Anthony: I did go to culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle, where I would say I received a solid comprehensive understanding of different techniques. I did get what you could call on the job training when I was working in a fine dining French Bistro in Philadelphia. There, I worked in the front of the house, as a food runner for a very talented chef. He always gave me the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and see some real cool things. From him I learned how to make beurre blanc, demiglace and mayonnaise as well as many other items. I remember the afternoon the pantry cook taught me how to make mayo in the prep part of the kitchen. At that time I was already realizing that I liked cooking and would try to replicate some of his dishes at home with my own twists. It was a lot of fun. After graduating business school I moved to L.A., to do sales. After two years of that I realized I liked cooking more. As the story goes, I called the influential chef from that Philadelphia restaurant and asked, "Do you think I should try culinary school?" He said, "At the very least you will learn something!" After that, I was Seattle bound.

SW: How did you get the job at Steelhead?

Anthony: I heard about the job at Steelhead Diner shortly after it opened almost four years ago. When I was cooking in my previous position, I was talking to the second sous chef the Diner, who was a fellow cook at the time. He said Kevin needed a cook. During the interview it came up another sous chef might be needed because the first summer Steelhead was open it was anticipated to be real busy and he would likely need two sous chefs. I said, "I'm your guy." I was offered the position. As things progressed I found I was trying to do whatever I could to see what Kevin saw and do what Kevin did, which everyone knows is pay attention to details. When plans started being made for Blueacre Seafood, it seemed logical that I would take the Steelhead kitchen over as its chef de cuisine.

SW: Some chefs are famous for screaming. Are you a yeller?

Anthony: I do best not to yell. To say that I don't get frustrated or upset occasionally would be a lie as everyone feels that way occasionally. When I started this career I said I would never be the chef that would be a "pan thrower" or a "yeller." Which is part of how I keep my cool. I try to be patient and I won't get upset when you don't know or if you have only made the same mistake a few times. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, that they will get it. I am real fortunate that I have a really awesome crew both in the front of the house and the back. Everybody here is professional, strong, smart and great at what they do and they are fairly low maintenance in terms of my needing to repeat myself. They are all passionate about what they do and that is a great asset in terms of being able to handle mistakes because they are few and far between.

SW: What's the most popular dish these days?

Anthony: As far as the dishes go here at Steelhead I would have to say that the popularity is not exclusive to one thing. As far as our "Flagship Dishes" go I would say generally everybody identifies us with our Dungeness crab cake, kasu-marinated black cod and chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. However, our menu changes regularly because of the seasons and the favorites change as a result of that.

Check back for part two of this week's Grillaxin when chef Anthony serves up a lesson on searing fish.

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