With new mainstays like Bar del Corso, Delancey, and Pair seeing great success, the "neighborhood restaurant" has seen a resurgence in Seattle over the past few years. The notion that people want to be able to walk to their local restaurant instead of drive is more European than American, but it's a welcome one in our fair city, and charcuterie Master Chef Edouardo Jordan has recently brought Ravenna into the game. Eater caught up with him to get the backstory behind his new Salare, a childhood spent cooking, and much more.
Tell me about your background and why you became a chef.
I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and I've been around food all my life. Whether it was Sunday suppers, at my grandma's house or around the holidays, my family always came together via food. I was always intrigued about what my grandma put into the cool, exciting dishes she made. I'm from the South and she made a lot of Southern influenced stuff. Things like chitlins, game meats, possum, raccoon and snapping turtles weren't uncommon on our dinner table. I was interested in seeing the process from catching a wild animal to harvesting it to putting it on the plate. It's in my blood and is exciting to me.
Did you go straight into culinary school?
I didn't think I was going to go into the restaurant industry and I earned dual degrees from the University of Florida in Sports management and Business Administration. I thought I was going to have a career in sports management or as an agent. But while I was in school I started a little blog (before the blog thing was popular) and was like this unknown restaurant critic.
I decided to go to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando where I graduated with honors. I started seeking out the best restaurants around and got a job in Tampa at a place called Mise en Place.
What a wild change of career choices. Where did you go from there?
I landed an apprenticeship at the French Laundry in Napa for six months where I floated between stations but eventually embedded myself next to the butcher: Mark Bodinet, who is now at Cedarbrook Lodge. There was always a laundry list of things to do. Mark called me ‘'Fast Eddie" and I was his wing-man.
From there I went to The Herbfarm in Woodinville and that's what jumpstarted my education on the process of curing meat. I told [owners] Ron [Zimmerman] and Carrie [Van Dyck] that I enjoyed curing meats and wanted to do it there. They supported me in taking an educational seminar at Iowa State University which was a blessing. I hand-built this cabinet at The Herbfarm that housed all the cured meats and was making coppa, lonzino, some hams and several salami.
After a while I decided to head to New York and worked at Per Se and Lincoln Ristorante. They really had a set program there and I learned quite a bit. I had the opportunity to spend a month in Parma, Italy in this little town called Colorno with a family that were ninth generation salumists. They had literally been making salumi there for hundreds of years.
Wow. I bet there are a number of chefs that would take that opportunity in a heartbeat.
It was an eye-opening experience. I had the opportunity to work with masters and to see their techniques first hand. Their whole process from start to finish was to create a naturally cured product. They used no nitrates, no starter cultures; just salt, wine, honey.
When I came back to New York and started to work at Lincoln with Chef [Jonathan] Benno I began dabbling again and making some simpler salumi like spalla cotto, coppa and lardo. From there, my wife and I wanted to leave New York and start a future and family together. So we moved here and I met up with Matt Dillon and landed a job at Sitka and Spruce. I then went to Bar Sajor where he asked me to be Chef de Cuisine.
Tell me about the concept behind Salare.
Going back to the family I worked with in Italy, they actually named this restaurant without knowing it. Salare means to salt or season. When I was there we were making coppa and the butcher kept saying, "salare, salare!" I had no idea what he was talking about. So he showed me how to season the meat and to rub it more and more. The symbols on the wall of this restaurant are from a corzetti stamp that they gave me. It influenced me in choosing the direction I wanted to go in.
I love Italian preserving methods and their "no waste" methodology. When I was growing up we didn't waste much because we didn't have much. That style, the thoughtfulness about animals... I'm using that in my cuisine. That's what I want people to think about when they come here. I'm utilizing what is available. It hurts me personally to see a liver or a kidney go down the drain or in the trash. Sometimes chefs are scared that they don't know what to do with it or that their clientele won't like it. So they toss it versus getting creative.
I'm influenced by French and Italian and my Southern background, but I didn't want to be ‘That Italian place in Ravenna'.
Why did you decide to open a ‘neighborhood' restaurant and not something splashy downtown?
I wanted something that was neighborhood friendly and still on the high-end from a food standpoint, but without being pretentious. I wanted a flagship for the neighborhood and a place that my son could come in and run around where no one would be upset. If you have kids you can bring them here. I'm here for families and wanted a place that wasn't so competitive and a bit different.
This area is a challenge just like anywhere off the beaten path. But I wanted something that the neighborhood could enjoy and people would be proud of. It's all about the neighborhood support and if we do alright there will be many more places to come in to eat at.
What are some of your favorite cured meat preparations?
Coppa by far. I make tons of coppa because of the ease of it. I use various flavorings from straight salt and pepper, I love using Aleppo pepper, and also smoked paprika. I also use cracked fennel. It's an easy starter cured meat.
I do "big boy" pancettas, aged 12 months and rolled. I stay away from prosciutto just because of the size and time required. I do a lot of lardo: real simple with cracked black pepper and salt and aged from 6-12 months. I salt it just like pancetta for 5 days, then hang with salt and give it a brush after 6 months. I still get a pure white product.
What chefs have inspired you?
Definitely Thomas Keller. I went there for a reason. He's a very influential chef and his military style and precision can be seen in how he runs the kitchen. Also Jonathan Benno - he was like a father outside of the kitchen. He loved you, was an awesome cook and he worked at the French Laundry and really had a sense of urgency and the same cooking style as I do. When he opened up Lincoln I went to follow him to continue learning.
My grandmother and mother were chefs in my eyes and they really taught me a lot. I'm not really a star chef chaser. I respect them but I want to do what I want to. I beat my own drum and the people that influence me are people I work with, not those I read about in a magazine.
Where do you like to go out to eat?
I really like Delancey for pizza. I'm a pretty simple guy when it comes down to eating on a regular basis. I'll do a burger at Red Mill. When I do go out it's generally pretty fancy. Maybe Mamnoon--I've been there more than any other place in the city.
Final question: what's your go-to karaoke song?
Oh gosh. Being that I usually go to watch everyone else I don't really have one. But whenever I have done karaoke, the song is called "I Be Strokin'" by Clarence Carter. It's more of a laughing funny song about this guy having sex with his girl. That would be it.