Urbane's chef de cuisine Dan Gilmore isn't your typical hotel cook. He worked at the Herbfarm. He helped open Crush. Before Urbane launched at Olive 8, he pleaded with the higher-ups at Hyatt that for a hotel restaurant to cut it in savvy Seattle, it couldn't take a middle-of-the-road approach. So Urbane does farm-to-table fare, with its menu updated seasonally. While we all might be bummed that it's still winter, Gilmore's going to turn that frown upside down with braises and roasted veggies. He's even up for trying to take root vegetables in a whole new direction. It's pretty radical. Ready? Yes, you can make turnips and rutabaga a thing of beauty even without bacon.
SW: How'd you land this job?
Dan: I was asked to apply by the hotel's executive sous chef (who was the sous at the Herbfarm when I was there). I had opening experience from Crush, and fit the culinary needs for Urbane.It's interesting that you and the sous chef both worked at The Herbfarm. What's the best thing you learned while cooking there?
Actually, there were five Herbfarm alumni in the hotel at one time. My sous chef has since moved to the Book Bindery. Best thing I learned at the Herbfarm . . . whew . . . I spent over two years at the restaurant. One huge impact was the education in herbs. All the different herbs and the less-common ones . . . it has created a curiosity which leads to some answers, but mainly more questions.
As the tradition goes there, the entire kitchen staff is introduced. What did they say about you?
In all honesty I don't remember . . . after hearing "the talk" a few dozen times I pretty much spent the time zoned out or playing a discreet form of grab ass . . .
Do you keep in touch with chef Jerry T? Do you eat at Poppy? If so, what have you loved best?
I run into Jerry every few months--a good friend of mine is his chef de cuisine. I haven't eaten at Poppy for quite a while . . . My wife and I are having a baby, so we really haven't eaten anywhere lately. I love Jerry's food. I remember tasting his food at the Herbfarm and then at Poppy. It is similar, with a lot of the same ingredients, but now he seems to have more freedom. I love the eggplant fries.
Talk about the challenges of cooking local during winter and early spring?
Some stuff is easy, like braised meats, preserves, pickles, stewed veggies. Most of this food seems a lot more loving to me. It takes some real thought and a little more work. In the summer everything is so fresh . . . it is kind of hard to screw it up . . . just don't do too much to it.
How can you make turnips and rutabagas as sexy and cool as bacon? Well, besides cooking them with bacon.
I love these two vegetables. I love saying "rutabaga." Who ever thought of that name? Roasted with butter and sage with pot roast. These grandes dames don't need to compete with bacon. I love bacon, don't get me wrong, but sometimes comfort overcomes sass. Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder.
Explain what the term chef de cuisine means? Can you fire anybody? Create the menu? Sweep up at night?
Basically, I run the kitchen. I make the schedule, hire, make the menu, order, and anything else that needs to be done including sweeping and dishes. Only human resources can fire, but I can recommend.
Check back for part two of Grillaxin with Dan Gilmore of Urbane at Olive 8.