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AUGUST 4, 1997

Home & Garden

chef John Howie III

photo courtesy of Richmond Public Relations

Ingredients to chef's success

  by Deborah Stone
   Most of us surmise that becoming a good chef takes years of experience, training and hard work in the culinary industry.
   "What many people don't realize is that one needs to have the basic natural ability with food to be a chef," says John Howie III of Woodinville. It's this inherent talent that has brought Howie to where he is today, executive chef of Palisade Restaurant, the man responsible for research, menu development, food quality and food preparation for one of Seattle's fines upscale Northwest dining establishments.
   Howie's story begins at age fifteen, when he started working for the Refectory Restaurant in Bellevue. All of his training has been on the job at places as Emmetts, Simon's Piano Bar, the Butcher Restaurant and Boondocks, Sundeckers and Greenthumbs. In 1988 he came to Restaurants Unlimited, which owns of Palisade and twenty-five other restaurants around the country. Howie became the executive chef at Scott's Bar and Grill in Edmonds and then Triples Seafood Bistro in Seattle before taking on the challenge of creating the menu for Palisade in December of 1991. He opened Palisade as executive chef the following June.
   His duties as executive chef are numerous and include supervising fifty cooks and four sous chefs, as well as training chefs and sous chefs for Restaurants Unlimited.
   "The challenge is to keep everyone happy and juggling everything is a balancing act," says Howie. He adds, "My managerial style has really grown since I've taken on this position."
   Howie also plans the menus and puts on the grand opening parties for each of the Palomino Restaurants. This has involved traveling to such places as Honolulu, San Francisco, Indianapolis and by the end of the year to Denver, Dallas and Houston.
   Howie believes in community involvement and volunteers at least monthly to prepare a meal for a charitable organization. He is also very active in Woodinville with the Little League and Northshore Youth Basketball. Having two sons has spurred his involvement in the sports arena, although he has always enjoyed athletic endeavors and feels they are healthy pursuits for children. Recently, he was invited to be on the Gary Payton Foundation Board.
   Howie has always liked being around food and the ability to create dishes that people enjoy is what lured him to the culinary field and what still motivates his success.
   "A chef is an artist who gets to experiment and invent dishes with his own twist," says Howie. "My palate is my strength," he adds. "I can go out and taste something and then go and make it." He likes many different cuisines and calls his style "eclectic," although at Palisade, he is known for his fresh Northwest cuisine that combines Pacific and Polynesian influences.
   His signature items at the restaurant include crab and macadamia nut stuffed halibut or sole, cedar planked roast salmon and rack of domestic lamb, which is marinated, smoked, put on a rotisserie and broiled in an apple wood broiler. Howie wrote a cookbook titled "The Plank Cookbook," which is sold at Palisade along with the actual cedar plank. It is also available at several stores in the area. He plans to develop another cookbook hopefully in the future, when time permits.
   It is always out of curiosity that one asks a chef what his favorite restaurant is. In response, Howie says, "The Boulevard in San Francisco is incredible. It's a chef's dream." Locally, he enjoys dining at Lampria, Rovers, Wild Ginger, Dahlia and Etta's Seafood, among others. He feels that Seattle is number four in the nation for fine cuisine, right behind New York, San Francisco and Chicago.
   Howie will be going to New York in December to present his culinary talents at the renowned James Beard House. "The invitation is such an honor for me," says Howie, "and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to prepare a meal for the Foundation members.
   Beard was a celebrity chef who wrote The Joy of Cooking and trained Julia Childs. When he died, the James Beard Foundation was created to promote the culinary arts. Chefs worldwide are invited to show off their expertise to the eighty to one hundred members.
   Many people ask Howie for his advice when pursuing a career as a chef. In response, he says, "Go to work in a busy restaurant before doing anything like spending money on culinary school. See what the industry is about and experience it firsthand before making any decisions. For some people, culinary school is critical to learn classic preparations and understand food. For others, it's not crucial. Culinary school can't teach you the pace, the desire, the drive to be successful in the industry."
   It is quite clear that Howie himself possesses all the ingredients necessary for an accomplished chef.
   Seafood Chowder
   Soups & Stocks - Palisade
   1/4 lb. butter; whole and salted
   3 oz. yellow onion, diced 1/2"
   1 oz. green pepper, seeded and diced 1/2 "
   2 oz. red bell pepper, seeded and diced 1/2"
   1 oz. yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced 1/2"
   1/4 c. dry sherry
   1 1/2 oz. flour
   3 oz. corn, kernels thawed completely
   4 oz. red potatoes, cooked and diced 1/2"
   2 oz. asparagus, blanched and sliced 1" sections
   1/2 tsp. thyme, dried
   1 qt. half and half
   1 oz. Crab Base, concentrate
   1/4 tsp. white pepper
   6 oz. crab meat, Dungeness fresh
   6 oz. shrimp meat, Chilean or Alaskan
   1 tsp. chives, sliced 1/8"
   Melt butter over medium heat in a large sauce pot. Add the onions and saute until semi-translucent.
   Add the peppers and cook until slightly tender. Add the flour and make a roux. Constantly stirring so not to brown the roux. De-glaze with sherry, add the half and half to the roux slowly stirring constantly. Bring unto a simmer stirring constantly.
   Add the crab base, thyme, corn, potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir constantly and simmer until potatoes are warm all the way through and chowder is completely thickened. Remove from the heat and cool in an ice bath.
   Add the asaparagus, stir until well mixed. Transfer, label and hold refrigerated until needed.
   Place the appropriate amount of chowder base into a sauce pot. Bring to a boil quickly add the crab and the shrimp.
   Transfer to the bowl or cup, garnish with chives and serve.