Chef Tyler Hefford-Anderson cooks for a captive audience, the diners who make the trek to the spectacular Salish Lodge an hour east of Seattle. You know, the historic lodge featured in the opening shots of Twin Peaks, the iconic place where couples come for romantic weekends filled with room service, Champagne, and chocolate massages. Especially next week when the dining room has something special planned for Valentine's Day. This seasoned chef has been around, working at the short-lived but sweet Opal and the renowned Rainier Club before that.
SW: How is the menu at the Salish Lodge geared toward the destination diner?
Hefford-Anderson: At the Salish we try to go out of our way to not only highlight the food, but to enhance the dining experience itself. Service is a big component of that, too. One thing we have been having a good time with lately is our "S'more."
We make a "campfire" of logs of flexible spiced chocolate, an orange croquant "flame," and then top it with sweet-potato ice cream. A handmade graham-cracker "soil" sits underneath. We put a tall glass of hot chocolate with sage picked from our herb garden next to the campfire and place a long metal skewer with a house-made Black Butte Porter marshmallow on top over the "flame." At service, the waitstaff takes out a little burner and torches the marshmallow tableside, making the whole dining room smell like toasted marshmallow. It's very cute, and people have loved it. Those are the kind of little touches that set the lodge apart. Those are the things that make an experience, not just a meal.
Do you miss cooking in the big city?
I do. While it is awesome to be out here at the lodge right in the cradle of agriculture here in the valley, there is something intangible that comes from working in the heart of a metropolitan city. An excitement. A feeling. Camaraderie with the others toiling at the profession. I can't complain about the farmers and growers that are right outside the back door, though.
Get an inside look at one of Chef Hefford Anderson's farm to table dinners at the Salish Lodge.
Noticed your bio mentions Opal on top of Queen Anne, but doesn't say it has closed. What happened there?
Opal was a very promising place. I would have to say that it was one of my favorite places to work, while at the same time being a learning and growing experience for me personally and professionally. For strategic business purposes, Opal took a more Thai direction, but still holding true to the dedication to please our guests with awesome food and a great atmosphere. Opal went through several variations and ultimately was sold and changed. I learned more than I can put into words from that position though; how to get a restaurant open, what it takes to execute fine dining in a small restaurant, how to please guests. I really do look back fondly at that experience.
What did you do after leaving Opal?
After Opal I spent some time looking for a new opportunity that fit well. I ended up for a brief period at a small catering company that catered mainly to a very large philanthropic organization here in Seattle. I have always tried to align myself with people that are doing great things, and I am very pleased that I am able to look back at my resume and comfortably feel that I have had a very diverse career, having opportunities to work in venues big and small, with differing styles of food and service, and with many, many different people.
How long have you been at Salish?
I started with the management company here at the lodge, Columbia Hospitality, in June of 2009 at Cedarbrook in SeaTac. When it was sold, I chose to stay with Columbia Hospitality. At the time, I was sent here to the lodge to assist with the end of the busy summer season, and to gear up for the holidays. In late November of the same year, a project called Club Cielo became available with Columbia, a small private club in a brand new condo building downtown called Escala, where I obtained the role of Executive Chef. It was an opportunity to use skills I had picked up at various locations over the last few years and apply them to a project that I helped to direct in its opening vision.
At the end of January, the decision was made that opening the club in total would come at a later date. With that decision, I went back to the Salish to assist in any way I could. When the executive chef position at the lodge became available, I jumped at the opportunity to helm a property with such a legacy.
Check back for part two of this week's Grillaxin Q&A with chef Tyler Hefford-Anderson.