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Noble Chef Series: Chef Jesse Souza of The Edgewater

Noble Chef Series Chef Jesse Souza The Edgewater Feature

The executive chef of The Edgewater’s Six Seven Restaurant in Seattle dishes out his dream kitchen equipment, chefs that have inspired him, and his favorite recipe for you to take home.

Noble Chef Series Chef Jesse Souza The Edgewater
Chef Jesse Souza of The Edgewater

What drew you to the food industry? How did you get started as a chef?

It was a happy accident. For a summer job in college, I was washing dishes at an oceanside resort in Maine when one day the pastry chef unleashed a torrent of unprintable words, walked out, got in his car, and left. The garde manger chef [a French term for the “pantry chef”] was soon moved to the bakery, and I found myself standing with a chef’s knife in my hand, trying to figure out what a “shallot” was.

Have you traveled at all for culinary inspiration? If so, where?

Most of my travels have been within the United States. I find the regional dialects, cuisine, and cultures to be stunning and inspiring. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that we can experience this much diversity and distinct flavor without a passport. We’re very lucky.

Do you have a signature ingredient that gives your cooking a unique, personal touch?

I wouldn’t say one ingredient, no. I like lemons, good olive oil, chiles, basil, avocados, fresh shellfish, and long-and-slow braised dishes that take time and patience. My cooking was jump-started when I moved to California just months after leaving the dish pit, so West Coast ingredients will always influence the techniques and creativity I found during those years.

What is your all-time favorite dish to make? Do you have a favorite wine pairing for the dish?

As I mentioned, I love to braise, and these are generally very easy dishes to pair wines with, often with local, gorgeous Washington or Oregon reds. We have been working a lot with DeLille Cellars [in Woodinville, Washington] this year for a special 55th Anniversary Wine Blend in honor of The Edgewater turning 55. Their wines are even more incredible when paired with our cuisine. For the lighter dishes, I lean toward mineral-forward, sharper whites.

What is your dream piece of cooking equipment?

I think the “smart” ovens by Rational are pretty much the best thing around. They are CPU-driven, combination ovens able to be programmed to very specific recipes, combine steam and heat, and just generally are amazing contributions to any kitchen.

Is there a chef (or multiple chefs) who inspired you along your career path? Who?

I am admittedly not a chef groupie. However, I have always held great regard for celeb chefs Eric Ripert, Michel Richard, and Marco Pierre White – all for different reasons. They all have had incredible contributions to world cuisine, but also have grown and changed throughout their careers, which in turn helps to mold the culture of food and beverage operations.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not busy in the kitchen?

I love to be with my wife and daughter, enjoy the amazing Pacific Northwest, ride motorcycles, draw, read, and attempt a semi-regular fitness routine.

What is your favorite part of being a chef? Biggest challenge?

Increasingly it is the ability to inspire and lead a properly organized and motivated team. The cuisine remains ever important, but the culture and the overall body of work cannot be overlooked. The greatest challenge in our career is balance, in all things.

What are your favorite things to do around Seattle?

I love to enjoy the incredible food scene, then everything else mentioned in the previous question.

What would be your alternative career choice?

Baseball player, cartoonist, novelist, stay-at-home dad, guy who gets paid to ride motorcycles all day. I’ve heard that last one is a good gig.
 Summer Salad Dish Chef Jesse Souza

Chef Souza’s Summer Salad

Part 1: Citrus-Mint Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. mint chiffonade
2 oz. shallot, thinly sliced
¼ c. fish sauce
¼ c. grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
¼ c. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. virgin olive oil

  1. Mix fish sauce, juices, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Then, stir in sliced shallot, and let steep for five minutes until shallot is softened.
  2. Stir in mint and olive oil. Check balance of seasoning, especially watching the acid content of the fresh citrus.

Part 2: Cilantro Crema

1 bunch cilantro
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. apple cider vinegar
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. sour cream
1 oz. sugar
pinch cumin, ground
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until liquefied and completely smooth.
  2. Check seasoning for a good sour-and-sweet balance.

Part 3: Summer Salad

1 Ib. Dungeness crabmeat, cooked and shelled
1 Ib. King crabmeat, cooked and shelled, cut into 2- to 3-inch portions
1 Ib. heirloom tomato, mixed types, cut into small wedges
2 avocado, ripe, cut into small wedges
2 ruby red grapefruit, cut into segments
2 ears sweet corn, grilled, kernels only
¼ c. mint chiffonade
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
virgin olive oil, as needed
citrus-mint vinaigrette, as needed
cilantro crema, as needed

  1. Toss heirloom tomato, avocado, and grapefruit with virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.
  2. In a separate bowl, toss both kinds of crab together with enough citrus-mint vinaigrette to season well, reserving some vinaigrette for finishing the dish.
  3. Decorate well-chilled serving plates with cilantro crema, as desired.
  4. Arrange some of the mixture of tomato/avocado/grapefruit in a layer on the crema, then begin layering in crab. Continue with the tomato mix and finish with crab on top.
  5. Lightly scatter the grilled corn over the top of the salad, dress with a spoon or two of the remaining vinaigrette, and finish with reserved mint chiffonade.

The Edgewater Hotel

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