Food was not only a way to raise funding for a non-profit mentoring program but also a way to display the richness of Tillamook County, according to a local chef.
By Brad Mosher
Chef Brian Williams, who owns The Big Wave Café in Manzanita with his son, introduced Master Chef Roland Henin to more than two dozen people at the Rural Innovations facility in Tillamook.
The attendance surprised Chef Williams.
“We didn’t anticipate more than five to 10 people sitting here because I didn’t think there would be interested in something like this. I feel like we were very lucky to bring somebody of his stature here to talk about food and the whole world that encompasses,” Williams said.
It also allowed the visiting Master Chef from the coastal Washington town of Chinook to display his feelings and love for the products of Tillamook County.
Williams said it was his history with Le Cordon Bleu which helped to set up the fundraiser.
“They have closed their schools, but they are reinventing themselves,” he said, “They kept me on full time and my job is to go around the country and do events like this in different cities around the country to continue on the Le Cordon Bleu brand until it becomes reborn.”
It was an injury which set up Tillamook to host the first of the fundraisers.
“I broke my collarbone and had surgery, so my first one I wanted to do it local and the company supported me on this,” Williams said, wearing a black arm sling over his white chef uniform.
For Chef Williams, it was a chance to show off his friend, who had retired to the Washington coast.
For Master Chef Henin, it was both a chance to talk about his love of food among people interested in the subject, but to also raise funding for a mentoring program designed to increase culinary excellence.
“Chef Roland, who I have met in cities all across our country and I met with him in Paris one time, we connect on a regular basis over our passion for fishing and often comes in the Big Wave Café. He’d give my staff instructions probably every other month,” Williams said. “I knew he’d love to do something like this and he enjoyed it.”
Henin enjoyed it so much he already agreed to return to Tillamook again, Williams explained.
“We have a great opportunity to really focus on all the different products depending on the seasons. I think it will be a big benefit. I could definitely see doing it quarterly,” Williams said.
Salmon was the subject of most of the discussion, along with the knife in Master Chef Roland’s hands. A fresh local salmon was planned to be the “guest” of honor, but because of circumstances, it was a salmon from a farm in New Zealand.
“We had fishing guides out trying to get fresh Chinook. There has been good fishing out on the Wilson and the Upper Nehalem for Chinook this late in the year that we thought we could get a fresh one and it didn’t happen.
“We also thought we would do something with crab. When we first planned this, crabbing was scheduled to start on the first (of December). They have put off (the season) until the first of January I think, so commercial crabbing never kicked in,” Williams said.
That eliminated the plans to also do a breakdown crab and crab dishes, the chef explained.
Master Chef Henin discussed the handling of fish, how to properly cut fish, along with how to cook it.
Even using the sous-vide method of cooking came up. Sous-vide uses vacuum to help cook. It is the process of vacuum sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. That is something that Chef Williams has introduced at the Big Wave Cafe in Manzanita.
“We do proteins in there and now we have started doing desserts. We do sous-vide cheesecake, sous-vide crème brule in little mason jars. It turns out really nice,” he said. “We do them on special occasions. We are at a slow time this year, so we don’t have quite as many selections from Thanksgiving until Valentines Day. Then, we kick back up again.”
Both chefs alternate visiting each other, with fish being a deciding factor.
“He keeps his boat in Ilwaco. I keep my boat in Garibaldi. Depending on where the fishing is good, that is who comes to visit who,” Williams said. “It is always about fishing, but the food is always amazing.”
Williams was also part of the master chef’s recent book about 50 years of mentoring great American chefs.
The two met in 1988 when Williams was a student at the Western Culinary Institute. According to Williams, the advice he received the first time he had cooked for Henin had remained constant – ‘to always taste everything you’d prepared.’
It is the same advice Chef Williams gives in his restaurant in Manzanita.