Ethics and Fine Dining – Chef Christine Keff talks Organic

Flying Fish has been in Seattle for almost eleven years now, and seems to be more of an institution than a restaurant. Last year, chef and owner Christine Keff caused a bit of a local sensation in the restaurant scene when she announced that the place was going to an all organic menu.

Seriously – Questions were asked. Meetings were held. Voices were raised.

It was interesting to watch the big names in the Seattle restaurant scene react. It was even more interesting to listen to what these chefs had to say about various food philosophies in the context of running well respected fine dining restaurants.

And then? Then there was silence as the chefs went back to simply running their restaurants. But being the ever curious person that I am, I always wondered in the back of my mind “What would happen to a restaurant after it decided to go organic?”. I sat down with Chef Keff to ask a little about her restaurant and what she has learned.

As way of a general introduction to the folks who don’t know your or your restaurant, Can you give a little background on your career and your restaurant? Sure. I’ve been cooking for 30 years. I never went to cooking school, instead taking a formal apprenticeship at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. I worked in New York for ten years and then moved to Seattle.

I then worked a bunch of places around town, some corporate restaurants, and then eleven years ago I opened Flying Fish. We were in the right place at the right time and have been pretty successful. We have a regular clientele and loyalty, not just from Seattle-ites, but from people from other cities who frequent Seattle frequently. It’s been a fun ride.

Has anyone been a role model in either the way you cook or the way you approach running your restaurant? The best role model I ever had was the first chef I worked for at the Four Seasons. He had a very naturalistic approach to food, even at a time when a more formal approach was stylish. He always wanted to do, and did do, food that made sense, that had a basis in tradition even if it wasn’t traditional itself.