ALERT: We’ve been nominated for a Condé Nast Traveler 2023 Readers' Choice Award.
In the Kitchen with our Chef Tom Douglas of Lola
Seattle’s favorite chef Tom Douglas has led the culinary scene in the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years. He also has deep connections to Hotel Ändra. His beloved restaurant Lola and recreational cooking school Hot Stove Society are both part of our hotel. We asked the James Beard award winner, chef/restauranteur, author and radio show host about his passion for serving delicious and sustainable food…and how he transformed our downtown corner into a food lover’s paradise.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE IN SEATTLE RIGHT NOW?
It’s always been our access to incredible, local seafood with a story. Today seafood is available everywhere, but you don’t always know the provenance. In Seattle, getting our seafood to your table is a very intimate process from our local network. For instance, every day our oysters, clams and mussels come to us on the ferry from Penn Cove Shellfish 30 miles away.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?
I’ve been doing this a long time. I continue to look for not only the best product, but also the best way to buy it and how it affects our people. I’m a big proponent of saving Alaska’s Bristol Bay. We’ve been fighting for 15 years to stop the proposed mining operation there, where the last great sockeye salmon run on earth returns to lay their eggs. It’s a humanity issue, not just an Alaska problem.
As a company and as a person, I’ve grown from just looking for the most pristine salmon to making sure we protect the process. We really believe in eating wild to save wild. If you don’t create economy around this fishery, manage it well, and give locals the jobs to help feed their children, they’re going to pick mining instead. It’s a much bigger conversation than we used to have. How do we make sure this fish is feeding my grandson?
OUR GUESTS RAVE ABOUT THE CLASSES AT HOT STOVE SOCIETY. HOW DO YOU MAKE IT FUN FOR ALL LEVELS OF COOKS?
All our classes work as team builders and socials. When we have a hands-on corporate event, we often have people coming in from all over the world. Some might want to sit back and watch their colleagues cook, while others dive right in. The nights I love the most are when there is unexpected joy. Like when people book us for rehearsal dinners where families who have never met come together. We’ll do a family cook-off. We integrate the whole group to keep it lively and interactive. They end up having a blast and walk away knowing everyone.
WITH LOLA, DAHLIA BAKERY, SERIOUS PIE, AND HOT STOVE SOCIETY, YOU’VE TURNED OUR DOWNTOWN CORNER INTO AN ALL-DAY DINING DESTINATION. WHAT’S NEXT?
We’re excited to share that we’re opening a neighborhood wine bar in a few months around the corner from Serious Pie for some later evening energy. We’re really looking forward to that!
YOUR SIGNATURE COCONUT CREAM PIE AT DAHLIA BAKERY HAS FANS AROUND THE WORLD. WHAT’S YOUR SECRET?
Our pie has celebrated 35 years of deliciousness. When you put a piece of pie in your mouth with real ingredients, our body just knows. It’s got wholesome ingredients – real cream, real butter, real coconut. During Covid, it was the number one thing people asked for, so we immediately set up a to-go bake shop. We still do a lot of charity auctions, and it sells for thousands of dollars.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS TO SHOW OFF OUR CITY?
Pike Place Market is the heart and soul of our city. I like to celebrate it every chance I get. It is an urban oasis that is second to none – and I’ve traveled the world. On weekends, you can find me there shucking oysters at our restaurant Seatown. Most people don’t realize the Market is five floors deep and two floors up with so much to explore.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ‘AUTHENTIC SEATTLE’ EXPERIENCE FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS?
Other than the Pike Place Market, which is a must, I’d head up to Capitol Hill. The neighborhood is super interesting and much like the old West Village in NYC. Check out the nightly shows at the Paramount Theater (we’re the concessionaire), our thriving music scene, and the major sports teams.
YOU’RE SO INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY. WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT?
It’s the foundation of our company. We’ve always wanted to be a pillar in our community. When you don’t invest back in your community, whether it’s your time, your talent or your treasure, you’re missing out. Food Lifeline, which supplies food banks, is a big deal for us. My wife is a farmer, and we’ve gotten very involved in saving farmland here in the Northwest.
To learn more about Tom Douglas restaurants, products and radio show, which airs weekly from Hotel Ändra, Co, visit tomdouglas.com.