What Do I Want To Get Out Of The Basque Stage?


So it’s official….. I have less than a month from when I leave the great Pacific NorthWest to start my culinary adventures in San Sebastian, Spain, as the next Basque Stage Rising Star! It has been a crazy, busy, and overwhelming couple of weeks since I have received the scholarship and I can’t imagine the my last couple weeks being any less crazy, busy, and overwhelming as the ones previous.

I feel that a month seems like a long time, but I know that time will fly by and I will be sitting in a plane, heading too my new home for 3 months. There is so much to do in such little time!

One thing that has been on my mind ever since I found out that I will be the next Basque Stage is what I hope to get out of living in San Sebastian, working with a great company like Sammic and staging under some of the most talented chefs, Xabier Diez and Aizpea Oihaneder, over at Xarma.

So here is a list of some of the things I have came up with that I hope to achieve upon returning to my real home in Seattle after my time in the Basque Country.

1. Develop a greater understanding and knowledge of the Basque Life.

I have the Harvest Vine to thank for opening my eyes to all things Basque. I’ve had an amazing 3 years working for/with some of the greatest people that have taught me so much about the culture and the food that comes from the Basque Country. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from working under my chef, Joey Serquinia, is that it takes more than knowing flavors and ingredients to cook good Spanish food. It takes a lot of knowledge about understanding about the culture and history of how these dishes came about.

With living in San Sebastian, I will be able to experience all the things that I can’t from just picking up and read about from a book about the Basque Country. I will be able to see and experience first hand what it is like to live the ‘Basque Way’. From the people, to the food, to the farms, to the wineries, I am so ready to soak up everything. I’m just hoping that my brain and heart will be able to handle all of the greatness that the Basque Country has to offer!

2. Utilize and expand the resources and opportunities presented to me

Everyone working in the restaurant industry  or any industry actually, knows the importance of networking. With staging in Spain, I will be introduced to a whole new circle of chefs, wine makers, farmers, and companies that I just would never be able to meet here in the States. I hope to take advantage of this great opportunity and really utilize all these networks that I could really benefit from in my career as a chef.

Sammic Headquarters

One of the coolest aspects of the Basque Stage is that it is sponsored by a great company called Sammic that develops and manufactures commercialized kitchen equipment for restaurants, hotels, etc., etc. I am really excited to work with this company and get to see and work with the products that they develop and really hope to build a strong relationship because they could be a great asset for whenever/if-ever I plan to start a restaurant of my own. (Can we say Discount!? Just Joking. =P) But on a serious note, I am very appreciative of what they do and for sponsoring such a great scholarship.

3. Help spread the word about the Basque Stage

I have to admit it. I’ve been a total Basque Stage Whore (pardon my language) ever since I had found about them more than a year ago. I have been and avid follower of the blogs of the previous Basque Stage winners and I was addicted to applying. I told myself from day one that I was going to keep on applying until I get it because its honestly such a great opportunity for chefs of all kinds, whether or not you are a home cook or professional cook. Everyone at the Basque Stage and Sammic have both teamed up and created something that I feel so passionate about and proud to be part of and I feel that more people need to know about it.

I was ecstatic to hear that The Art Institute of Seattle, the culinary school I had graduated from, was interested in getting in contact with me to hear more about receiving this scholarship. This is a good step into the right direction to let other students to know about this great opportunity that is honestly so easy to apply for. Yeah, I must admit, that it was pretty crappy the past 2 times I’ve applied and gotten so close to getting it, but persistence really pays off. Keep trying. Keep applying. Keep believing in yourself. Because in the end, there is no harm in trying, especially when the outcome can be as spectacular as cooking in one of the culinary capitals in the world!  And I don’t plan on just spreading the word with just students, I want to help encourage anyone and everyone.

4. Re-open Txori

Oh, beloved Txori. Txori was the sister restaurant of The Harvest Vine that sadly closed down in 2010. It was the first restaurant that I had my first real bite of real Spanish food. This was the restaurant where I started my culinary career as an intern that eventually lead into landing a job at. Quite possibly one of the best jobs I have had in my life.  It was here I knew I wanted to pursue cooking Spanish food.

Txori, which means “bird” in Basque, was a bar that served the traditional Basque tapas known as “pintxos”. Pintxos are basically small bites of food that are usually served on a sliced piece of toasted bread or pricked with a skewer that have became popular in San Sebastian. I feel that these are the type of bars that America need to adopt more of. There is so much to love about the concept of eating small bites while sipping on a nice glass of cava or albarinio and conversing with fellow patrons.I am most looking forward to pintxo bar hopping and really get to see what a real pintxo bar feels/looks/smells/tastes like. I want to take these things back because I feel that people need to know the greatest of Pintxos!

Re-opening Txori has been something I’ve always wanted ever since the day their doors have closed. But I’m hoping that with this Stage that it will maybe cause a spark, an idea, even a small thought of maybe re-opening those doors to something that not only I, but so many others, have grown to love. And whenever the time comes, I will drop and stop everything I am doing because this is something I really want, no, need to part of. (*hint hint* Carolin ;] ).

5. Be able to share my experiences

So of course it’s going to be great to share my experiences with friends, family, all you following my blogs, and so on. But honestly, one person I’m really hoping to share this experience with is my daughter, Tegan. She is my world, my mini-me, my pride and joy. Its going to be the hardest thing I will ever had to do being apart from her but everything that I do, I do for her. I have always known that with working in this industry, I had to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices. It’s quite a big sacrifice I’ve had to make, but in the end, it’ll all be worth it. I’m going to gain so much out of it, but what I will be gaining the most is a story for her of how her dad has fulfilled one of his dreams and that if you work hard and keep trying, you will be capable of doing anything. I want her to know that someday, I hope she will be able to do something like this and be able to share her stories with me. No matter what, I will always be there for her and will support her in anything she wants to do.

Sorry for the lengthy post! I am just getting so excited and anxious and have so much on the mind right now that my brain kind of threw up all of my thoughts in form of this blog post. Haha


Mussel Escabeche

We are in the midst of Seattle Restaurant Week and one of our dishes for our first course options is Mussel Escabeche with a garbanzo purée.

Escabeches are foods that have been cooked through steaming or frying and then marinated and stored in a mild pickling brine. This technique had been used for centuries as a way of preserving foods before the days of refrigeration. Escabeches work well with a variety of ingredients from poultry to seafood.

I have always been pretty fond of this preparation of mussels because it is a nice change up from the common bowl of steamed mussels you often find on menus. Usually served cold or at room temperature, these mussels take on a smoky flavor from the Spanish pimentón that compliment the mouth-puckering sensation from the vinegar. The liquid is so good that you can use it as a vinaigrette on some greens to brighten the dish. The garbanzo purée makes for the perfect foil to the escabeche as it adds some creaminess and subtle flavors to balance out the composed dish.

To make mussel escabeche, clean and debeard a couple pounds of mussels. Steam the mussels with some white wine and water and remove from pan right when the mussels start to open up. Discard any unopened mussels. Let mussels cool. Then remove mussels from their shell and discard shells.

In a pot, heat up olive oil with smashes garlic cloves over medium heat. When the oil starts to simmer and the garlic starts to brown, add aromatics (black peppercorns and bay leaves) and let flavors infuse for about 5 minutes. Drop the heat to low and then add pimentón and your vinegar very slowly (Equal parts vinegar to olive oil). It is important to let oil cool a little bit because the vinegar will cause the oil to spatter. When all of the vinegar is added , let marinade cook for another 5 minute then take off heat.

Add the steamed mussels and let marinade cool. The mussels and marinade can then be served cold or be brought up to room temperature. Serve on a toothpick as a small pintxo or use in a salad and enjoy!!

A Long-Overdue Return…..

I know, I know…. I’ve done exactly what I previously wrote about not wanting to do…… Not keeping up with my blog. I have really wanted to keep up with posts, but I only have myself to blame for not following through. But here is a very informal first post. So expect an actual real blog post very soon! 

Until Then….


Thanks For All of The Support!

I’d like to thank all of you guys for the support and excited for this opportunity with the Basque Stage. I can’t stress enough how great it is that so many of you guys are rooting for me to go to Spain. It means the world to me.

I am so grateful for everything that has gone on this past month . Just knowing that a lot of you guys are wanting me to reach my goals and succeed in life just warms my heart. It will be another long 2 weeks of wondering and hoping whether or not I will be one of the lucky finalist to go to Spain but you guys are making it all worth it.

Special shout out to everyone at The Harvest Vine. You guys are the greatest work family anyone could ask for. You all are the reason that this is possible. Without you guys, I wouldn’t be where I am today and be so in love with the food we cook and the cuisine and culture we represent.

Another shout out to Thatcher Collins for being super excited for me and wanting to be so involved with what I am doing for my application process. He had the kindness to let me borrow some of his books from his great collection (especially the Martín Berasategui book!) to help me research and brush up on my Spanish to get me prepped up for what could be one of the greatest moments of my life.

Thanks Thatcher! 

Videos, Recipes, Essays, Oh My!

So it’s been a very busy week at work with Voracious (see my early post), Easter, and the start of Seattle’s Restaurant week! And all I could really think about is the Basque Stage even after working countless amount of hours.

Look Mom!!! I did it!!

I haven’t really mentioned it to anyone yet because it’s still pretty hard for me to soak it in, but I am one of the 30 candidates to possibly be one of the 2 finalists they choose to go to Spain and Stage at Martín Berasategui, a three-star Michelin restaurant in the Basque Country. I will be posting a lot in the next couple weeks as we all have objectives that we must fill for our application for this stage. So be expecting a video that features myself, about myself, hitting the web by tomorrow! I will be have a very exciting post where I will show you one of my most favorite things to eat. And if you are lucky, maybe you’ll even get to read probably one of the most important essays I will have to write!

I am so very proud to be part of this and hope all of you can see the excitement that I have for this opportunity. So please stay tuned and come see me as I climb these steps to get to Spain!

Thank you all!