Making the Best with What You Have…

In a time where many of us are forced to slow down… forage… and keep it local, we decided to write about two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Blaine Wetzel’s latest book, Lummi – Island Cooking.

If you haven’t heard of Chef Wetzel or The Willow’s Inn, it is a one-hundred-year-old restaurant that in a single decade has become one of the nation’s top culinary destinations. It’s just a short ferry ride from Washington State mainland, on tiny Lummi Island. Everything Chef Wetzel makes is sourced within a few miles from the kitchen.

Everything being locally grown or native to the island, makes LUMMI’s menus special, but also creates the exceptional challenge to their pastry recipes. No chocolate, no vanilla, no cinnamon. As food designers, Bob and I sometimes instill limitations on each other by making the first decision, the shape of the food or the way it is served. This is where the fun begins… this is where you get to rely on your talents, and improvise, and perfect.

Surely if you have’t heard of LUMMI, you’ve heard of another farm-to-table restaurant, focused on making seasonal quality ingredients the stars of their dishes. But page after page you will encounter mesmerizingly simple yet unbelievably complex images. The texture, the colors, the seemingly effortless compositions could rival that of a painting hanging at MoMA. I am truly blown away and cannot wait to journey there one day. This beautifully published book is an attempt to capture the result of all Chef Wetzel and the talented individuals who contributed to LUMMI over a decade…. and they succeeded!

Though this is not a new story, it does somehow feel more connected with what the world is currently experiencing. Whether you are working crazy hours in essential service, without employment, or at home with your family, we are all trying to make the best of it. Using materials or ingredients we have at our fingertips to help create solutions to our new situation. I can’t help imagine how all the industries, especially the hospitality industry, will have to adapt, evolve, and grow from this experience. And we will soon see what everyone has come up with during this incubation period… just be patient.

Lummi – Island Cooking by Blaine Wetzel, with photography by Charity Burggraaf, will be out April 7, 2020.

TJ Girard is a sought-after food designer and creative consultant, celebrated for staging theatrical, interactive food + beverage experiences. She now resides in California where her creativity is solar powered! TJ writes the Design Milk column called Taste.