Photo by Rosemary Dai Ross

Cooking For Company: Chef Audrey Spence of Frolik!

The James Beard winner cites inspiration close to home

We hosted a sold-out crowd of oenophiles at our last Road to Voracious, when we planned for pairings in Pike Place’s Atrium Kitchen. This month Frolik’s Head Chef Audrey Spence will serve up some old favorites, leading her students to cook from inspiration. With influences from Tom Douglas to her own grandmother, Spence knows cooking is as much about the people as it is about the food.

You’ve been an Executive Chef for Tom Douglas Restaurants. That’s a pretty big deal. What’s the most important thing you learned cooking for Seattle’s most famous chef and restaurateur? Probably the most key part of training there was ‘what is defined as local?’; resourcing products and making responsible buying decisions. I learned how to build relationships with farmers and purveyors who you trust and who know that, ‘Hey you like eggplant! I’ve got this great eggplant for you…’

I hear you also” trained” under your grandmother as a child. Tell us a little about that. That was definitely the beginning of my love for cooking. We had Friday night dinners with her when my parents would go out. She’d cook these really elaborate meals—her father was French so she made very rich food—and I loved being a part of the experience of making the dinner for everyone to share together.

Any meal she made really stand out to you? Steak and kidney pie. I remember loving that and thinking it was so delicious, which seems weird for a kid…

Your menu for the Road to Voracious event at Pike Place Market’s Atrium Kitchen feels appropriately summery. What made you choose clams as the main course? I love doing clams for a class because they’re super easy and great to cook at home, yet I feel like a lot of people don’t do them at home. So I teach them to do the prep, which is very simple. And, of course, I’ll take any excuse to have a feast of seafood living here in the Pacific Northwest…

Participants will walk the market with you to shop for the ingredients. Tell us about some of the places you like to visit there? I love the Pike Place Fish guys. Even though it’s a big tourist attraction, they are awesome about their sourcing and they always have something special. I really love cheese too so I’ll probably go into Beecher’s and see what’s in their cold case because they get smaller stuff that you don’t see at other places.

When you’re not shopping for work, tell us about your favorite place to get a snack in the market? Le Panier for a macaron. I have a hard time giving that up if I’m in the market. I feel like if I’m there for a non-work event, I just love to stroll through and see all of it. You think you’re going to do one thing and then…

What is the single most important thing people will learn in this class? I’m hoping that they take away that doing something special with food doesn’t have to be real serious. You don’t have to plot and plan days ahead. It’s about: ‘These clams look great, this bacon looks delicious,’ let’s put something simple together that still feels special with family and friends.

Join us on the Road to Voracious, once a month at Pike Place Market’s Atrium Kitchen. Space is limited, so grab your ticket here.

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