Chris Johnston— the Executive Chef of Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering, Davids & Co, and Muse at Benaroya Hall—spills his secrets to menu creation, including PNW day-trips and cyber-stalking chef friends.
As the Executive Chef of DSquared Hospitality Company (Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering, BBQ café Davids & Co, and Muse, the elevated PNW restaurant inside Benaroya Hall), Chris has the privilege and challenge of overseeing the daily operations of two kitchens as well as crafting menus for each unique audience at catered events. When asked about his seemingly endless supply of inventive creations, Chris shared his go-to resources for culinary inspiration:
"After so many years in this business [including working as the chef garde-manager at the Ritz Carlton in Miami’s South Beach, at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Gasparilla Inn in FL, and Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas], I’ve developed culinary relationships across the country. Social media has been a great resource to stay connected with past colleagues.
The advantage of following current or former associates for inspiration is that I know how they think and generate ideas. Some chefs I like to follow are @benjsteve (of the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills), @chefgeraldchin (Vice President of Culinary for Mina Group), @chefcaudeletohic (ONE65 in San Francisco), @chef_clive-gomez (the Sugar Factory in Bellevue), @chef_kamel_guechida (Corporate Executive Pastry Chef of Wolfgang Puck), @jsethprigg (one of our own chefs at Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes), and @mrdanielcox (Executive Chef of Seattle Hotel Motif).
I also follow countless farms, restaurants and specialty vendors. Check out Santa Monica restaurant Rustic Canyon’s Instagram account (@rusticcanyon)—it’s riveting.”
International Food Blogs
“Other resources I like to browse are the websites sbs.com.au/food, seriouseats.com, bbc.co.uk/food and, of course, the New York Times. Finding inspiration from distant lands keeps things modern and new.”
“I have been really impressed with the King County Library’s selection of cookbooks. I highly suggest the downtown Bellevue Library, and you don’t have to turn them in at the same location you checked them out. If you are a forward thinker, you can actually request a book and pick up at your local library, but I prefer to browse the section.”
“Although farmers markets can be adventurous, I like to go out to the farms themselves to see what is going on. One of my personal faves is Left Foot Goat Farm in Eatonville. Another, Bybee Farms in North Bend, has a killer blueberry selection. The best day trips are out to the oyster farms on the Hood Canal. Don’t forget to buy a shellfish license and check the tide chart and you can get your own oysters.”
“How do I predict what people will want to be eating next season? Chances are if I get excited about something, others will too. By staying involved with producers, farmers, and vendors, you can be exposed to products and ingredients before they are trendy.”
To see some of Chef Chris’s creations and the behind-the-scenes happenings at DSquared Hospitality Company, check out Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering on Instagram or Facebook at @tuxedosandtennisshoes. If you’re also partial to New York sports references, you can find Chef Chris on Instagram at @chef.crispy.
(Written December 2019)