Dig into culinary tours and cooking classes at the market.
When Liz McCune and her husband were traveling through Europe last summer, they were constantly on the lookout for ways to immerse themselves into the cultures they were visiting. They wanted to bypass the standard tourist sites and find a back door into the everyday lives of the people around them. It didn’t take long for them to discover a way in.
“We found the food scene to be our path,” says McCune. “We met with chefs and locals and did food tours and classes, and connected with each region through its food.”
Back in Seattle, McCune realized that little opportunity existed for the same kind of culinary immersion. The Cordon Bleu-trained chef had spent the last 15 years in the business world; suddenly she saw an opportunity to offer something new to the city.
“Everything here food-wise is amazing and we like to eat it and learn about it—but nobody’s talking about it from an expert point of view,” she says. “A chef-guided tour would make sense.” Even more sensible would be to focus on Pike Place Market, the culinary epicenter of the city.
This past May, McCune launched Eat Seattle with chef-led tours of the market. Each two-hour tour involves an established Seattle chef (Wayne Johnson is the executive chef at Farestart; Suzanne O’Neil has worked at Tavern Law) interacting with their favorite producers: fruit and vegetable farmers, butchers, fishermen, cheesemongers, coffee roasters. Chefs usually start the tour by sharing a fresh-made bite, then lead participants through the market’s stalls, sampling stuff from preselected vendors such as Frank’s Produce, Beecher’s Cheese and BB Ranch. During the tour, McCune says, vendors touch on issues of food access and sustainability.
Additionally, Eat Seattle offers monthly chef-taught cooking classes that start with a market tour and lead to the Atrium Kitchen, a new event space on the first floor of the market. October’s class: Caribbean Comfort Food.
“Right now [our participants] are 50 percent local, so tourists that come in are like, Cool I’m with the locals and a chef. It doesn’t get much better than that if you love food.”