An Iron Chef in Hamilton

Tom Douglas, a Seattle-based chef and restaurateur who is known for his mastery of North West cuisine, treated an audience at the Colgate Inn to a cooking demonstration on Saturday, April 4th. Douglas is well known in the world of “foodies”-Bon Appetit readers, Food Network junkies and anyone else deeply passionate about food-as a chef who cares about not only flavors and textures he imparts in his dishes, but also the environmental sustainability of the ingredients he uses; Douglas is scrupulous about the quality of the building blocks he uses to construct each dish.

Douglas is the owner of five restaurants, a bakery and a catering business. While his restaurants differ in flavor sets, during his demonstration, Douglas described them as all deriving from a passion for excellence in food. The regional food each restaurant focuses on may differ, but the same ethos resonates.

Wearing a “Colgate” embroidered apron, Douglas was personable and funny throughout the demonstration, cracking jokes about food, the audience members and his daughter, Loretta Douglas ’12, who loyally served as his assistant throughout the demonstration and kindly put up with her father’s jokes. At one point, Douglas gave away free hats to students with the phrase “Rub With Love” (a reference to his line of spice rubs) sewn on them so that his daughter would have a constant reminder of her father as she walked about campus. Loretta spoke positively about working with her father, stating that she has,”always assisted my dad in the kitchen, it’s just something we do together…Cooking is kind of our life, it’s natural then for me to take part in it.”

Douglas has a gift for entertaining, interacting with and engaging his audience. Loretta aptly described her father’s persona as a chef.

“He’s a pretty tangential speaker, but his enthusiasm for his profession is infectious. I have lived with it for nineteen years and I still get caught up in his love of what he does.”

Douglas playfully reiterated throughout his demonstration that he beat Iron Chef Morimotto on the television show, Iron Chef. Douglas competed on Iron Chef in 2005. In the episode in which he competed, the secret ingredient was Chinook salmon; this makes his win all the more impressive since fish is Morimotto’s specialty. Douglas also chatted with the audience about the growth of the chef/foodie culture in America, speaking on the increasing importance of personality for chefs and the dichotomy between results in the kitchen and personality.

So what was on the menu for Douglas’ captivated audience? His first dish was salmon seasoned in one of his signature rubs and then seared. In preparation for the dish, Douglas gave the audience a lesson in fish preparation. He filleted the salmon he was to cook for all to see and learn; as he did so he discussed the importance of using the whole fish in cooking and not wasting those parts (such as the nose) of it that are often discarded in the filleting process. He followed this dish up with flank steak stuffed with kalamata olives, currants and roasted pine nuts.

Post-sampling, the level of adoration for Douglas peaked, as audience members savored the intricacies of the flavors encapsulated in his simple food. Ending his demonstration, Douglas received a hearty round of applause, evidence of the charm embodied in his fun-loving demeanor and toothsome cuisine.