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Farm to Table: Chef Brian Scheehser on Fresh Ingredients

Trellis Restaurant executive chef to host FareStart's Guest Chef Night on August 4
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Sponsored by FareStart

Chef Brian Scheehser has been whipping up fresh dishes since he was a child.

“I liked to make salads,” says the chef, farmer and award-winning cheesemaker. “So when I was a kid, I used anything I could find in the fridge. My brother called it my ‘Kitchen Sink Salad.’”

While you won’t find the same cleverly named creation on the menu at Trellis, the Kirkland restaurant where Scheehser works as executive chef, dishes are still crafted around fresh and seasonal ingredients. The chef harvests a large variety of fruit and vegetables on his 18-acre Woodinville farm, and during the summer Trellis features a Two Hour Salad, made with ingredients gathered that same day.

Working with seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients may be a double-edged sword considering the limitations on menu items, but Scheehser says he loves sharing ingredients from his farm with restaurant guests.

His passion for food and spirit of giving translates to charitable work as well. Among a number of local organizations that the chef works with is FareStart, a program that teaches culinary skills and assists with job placement for students who are homeless or disadvantaged. Scheehser has been involved with the organization for some time, and will work alongside FareStart students to prepare a three-course meal for diners during the organization’s Guest Chef Night on Thursday, August 4.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” he says. “You get to see the start of someone’s journey.” To be a part of the experience, and witness the graduation of students who have completed the program, make your reservations here.

What kick-started your journey as a chef?

My mother and grandmother and their love of food were a huge motivation for me. My mother actually researched and enrolled me in the Culinary Institute of America many years ago.

How has your experience as a farmer influenced your creations in the kitchen?

It’s changed the way I look at the plate. I was brought up in the culinary world thinking that the protein should be the center of the plate, but as a farmer, the protein becomes secondary and the vegetables are the center of the plate.

Trellis boasts a pure farm-to-table dining experience. What do you find to be unique about this type of cooking?

I don’t truly believe it is a style of cooking, but more of a way to showcase the amazing products we have all around us. It’s truly going back to basics. Over the years, as a chef, I’ve learned that there’s nothing more important than knowing where our food comes from along with the importance of developing relationships with vendors and artisans that pride themselves in the same beliefs. As a farmer, I’ve learned to appreciate the seasons of the Pacific Northwest. It’s also important to support small artisan businesses like La Macrina, La Pasta, Mutual Fish, Essential Bakery and others. This helps to make our community strong.

What is the most rewarding part about your job? The most challenging?

The most rewarding part is that I get to share the farm with our customers. The most challenging part is understanding the seasons, as well as the climate and how it affects the growing process as a farmer. 

What inspired your involvement with FareStart?

Being able to help others. FareStart is a great organization.

In what ways have you noticed local programs like FareStart benefit not just the participants, but the community as a whole?

It helps to educate, not only the students, but also the community on how important programs like these are in helping solve homelessness and joblessness.

What's one of your favorite memories from working with the FareStart students?

My favorite part about the FareStart students is that they are all so eager to learn.

What's a lesson that you have learned while in the food industry that you would like to pass on to these aspiring chefs?

You can learn from everyone you come into contact with. It doesn’t matter how many years you are in the business, you will learn something new every day.

Chefs are known for working strenuous hours and tough days. What qualities must a FareStart graduate possess to be successful in the food industry?

Never be afraid to ask questions, nobody will ever fault you for asking for help. Never stop growing. Work hard.

If you had one last meal, what would it be?

I would have cassoulet and a glass of Syrah.