Chefs who focus on farm-to-table cooking speak with reverence of the animals they receive, and also of the conscientious farmers, ranchers, and fishermen who provide the rich bounty. One such chef, new to the Seattle culinary scene, is Maximillian Petty, who recently opened Eden Hill in the Queen Anne neighborhood.
Petty is making every last bit of the animal delectable with dishes such as the Pig Head Candy Bar, reconstituting potential waste products like the pig's brain, snout, and eyeballs into a beautifully gelatinized, fried morsel.
Petty started as a dishwasher at his sister's restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington at age 15 and worked his way up the ranks. After culinary school at Lane in Oregon, he developed the charcuterie program at King Estate Winery in the Willamette valley and then moved to D.C., where he worked as a private chef for the political elite. Then, as chef de cuisine at James Holmes' Olivia in Austin, he won both the Zagat 30 under 30 and Austin Under 40 awards.
Eater spoke with Petty about his decreasing waste and increasing creativity when converting whole animals into intriguing preparations like beef tendon cracklins. Here's what he had to say.
Tell us about the concept behind Eden Hill.
For one, we don't make people feel bad about their preferences. I will make any accommodation. I never say no, and we do it to make them happy.
Our clientele is a mix of people, and about half come in for date night when they have a sitter and to be in an atmosphere of where they can get away and just be in their world. That's why we do the shared plates, I call it the "Lady and the Tramp" effect — they can talk about their food together instead of their individual preferences.
Tell us about your relationship with meat.
I have a lot of respect for it. It all comes down to my work at King Estate with charcuterie. I got to handle meat for the first time as a whole and I gained a new respect for using every piece of fat, meat, bone — especially in stocks. I gained a level of respect for the whole animal.
I had to weigh unusable trim and every time I'd do it I would figure out a way to use and reduce that waste product. It would be like a game in a way, where I'd try to utilize things for charcuterie projects.
So you attempt to use every part of the animal at Eden Hill?
When people ask if we use the whole animal we say "yes." At the end of the day we have a scraped head. My head to tail usage has gone even farther and farther with each animal I've worked with.
When I can use things like lamb necks (which I buy for something like $2/pound) and am able to give people a lot on their plate, I make my costs and they enjoy a well-cooked piece of lamb they wouldn't normally see on a menu.
When people ask if we use the whole animal, we say 'yes.' At the end of the day we have a scraped head.
What affinity do you have with farmers and the land?
My wife raised show pigs and I've learned from her family and her dad. The beauty behind growing and feeding them [is] when you see how the flavors of those products are developed, like in Oregon with the feeding of hazelnuts and whatnot. I love how the farming community is giving real care and love in raising these animals properly.
What do you have in store when it comes to creative meat preparations?
Currently I'm utilizing beef tendon quite a bit, and most people don't do a lot with it. We make cracklins out of beef tendon and out of one case I have enough for 6 months. We slice them by hand, dehydrate them and fry them. They take on the most beautiful texture and flavor of chicharron that I have had in some time. I like giving people something they've never had or a version of something they've never had. It's fun and I'm lucky that I can say that about my job.
What dish in recent memory are you most proud of?
Well, for New Year's Eve we did a cured foie gras and folded in some creamy peanut butter at the end. We chilled it, balled it out, and dipped it at least 20 times in this concord grape gelee and it made it the whole thing look like a grape. Seeing the surprise on people's faces when they have something like that is why I do what I do. It's really a great feeling.
Where do you get your meat?
I use Anderson Ranch in Oregon and did even when in Texas and DC. I support them because I know their farm is beautiful and they are a great leader in how we should be raising animals and how they are processed. They may not be "local" but what they are doing for their animals and local community is important.
What's your guilty pleasure with food?
I love candy of all kinds. My guilty pleasure is the fact that I've done a lot of travelling in my time, and I've found a certain appreciation for being able to eat anything. I'm not picky, and we're here every day from 10am-midnight. I'll want to eat something and I'm not ashamed if we pick up a frozen pizza.
What kinds of food or preparations would you like to see more of in Seattle?
I think that using more of what we have here is especially important. I think we could focus even more on local seafood. I also think Seattle is on an upswing in using local farms. They do such a good job and coming from a place like Texas I feel like I'm blessed to be a part of what is going on here. You have a lot of choice when you come here and I think we're a lucky city to have that.