Tulalip Casino chef to cook at NYC's James Beard House
Dean Shinagawa didn't have any preconceptions about casino food when he was offered the head chef position at Tulalip Bay, the fine dining...
Times Snohomish County Bureau
Dean Shinagawa didn't have any preconceptions about casino food when he was offered the head chef position at Tulalip Bay, the fine dining room in the Tulalip Casino near Marysville. But Shinagawa, former head chef at Roy's during its run at Seattle's Westin Hotel, said he's heard plenty about cheap, all-you-can-eat casino buffets and barely warm food since taking the job in 2004.
"The stereotype is not too good," Shinagawa said.
The Hawaiian native has been shattering the image of casino food five nights a week with menus that combine fresh Northwest ingredients and tropical flavors in a pan-Asian cuisine. For his efforts, he's been invited to cook Thursday at the prestigious James Beard House in New York. Only one other tribal restaurant has been so honored in the past five years, according to staff at the Beard House.
"To be elevated to that degree, it's just incredible," said Lisa Severn, Tulalip Food and Beverage director and a Tulalip tribal member. Severn is part of the eight-person team that will accompany Shinagawa to New York.
For invited chefs — who typically bring their own ingredients from their home restaurant — preparing dinner at the Beard House is a famously challenging gig. The New York brownstone, the former residence of the man considered the dean of American cooking, features a small kitchen on a big stage.
Eighty diners will pay up to $155 for a five-course meal plus hors d'oeuvres.
Shinagawa has prepared a caper-dill cream cheese spread to accompany one of the appetizers: Alderwood smoked wild salmon with white sturgeon caviar on crostini. Other starters include Kumamoto oysters with Lomi Lomi tomato mignonette and Asian pesto rock shrimp.
Also on the menu: Dungeness Crab and Lobster Siu Mai with Crispy Taro, Chile Sauce and Scallion-Truffle Essence, Thai Curry Kabocha Squash Bisque, Sweet Soy-Glazed Wild Salmon with Miso-Braised Lotus-Root, Prime Black Angus Strip Loin with Oregon Blue Cheese Potato au Gratin and a Warm Pineapple-Pear Crisp.
Seattle's O• S Winery is providing wine to accompany each course.
Shinagawa cooked once before at the Beard House as part of a team from the Roy's Restaurant empire, which now numbers 35 in the continental U.S., Hawaii, Japan and Guam. Shinagawa cooked an entree while head chefs from Florida and New York Roy's prepared the remainder of the meal, and Roy Yamaguchi, who gave the chain its name, greeted diners. The Tulalip Bay team will get into the house Thursday morning and prep and cook throughout the day. "It's pretty intimidating, but I've grown as a chef since I was last there. Hopefully I can pull it off," he said.
Tulalip Bay has been one of Snohomish County's best-kept secrets. Few critics have reviewed the 60-seat, redwood-paneled restaurant; patrons have either lucked into it during visits to the tribe's $78 million casino, or have heard about it through word-of-mouth.
Only in the past year or so has the staff ventured out to food showcases such as Taste of Washington.
The response, Shinagawa said, is a disbelieving "food like this is coming out of a casino?"
Shinagawa notes that Las Vegas, the mother of casinos and casino buffets, has upgraded many of its restaurants with four-star chefs. He's even staged a little Vegas flash at Tulalip Bay — a tableside flambé as an intermezzo.
The menu being prepared at the James Beard House will be served at Tulalip Bay through Dec. 31. "Hopefully, I can take the restaurant and make a name for it," Shinagawa said. "I'd love to eliminate some of the stereotypes."
Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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