If it wasn’t for his name on the wall behind him in the radio studio, you wouldn’t really know Tom Douglas is a celebrity chef. But he is, and he’s a darn good one.
He has restaurants all over Seattle including Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, TanakaSan and Home Remedy, which he operates along with an ownership team that includes his wife, Jackie Cross, and Eric Tanaka. The 55-year-old has published cookbooks and has the feather in his cap of being an “Iron Chef America” contestant who bested Chef Morimoto.
He walks into the studio with a cup of coffee, fairly unassuming and casually dressed. It’s not just any coffee, it’s from Assembly Juice and Coffee Bar, which he owns.
He banters with his staff and cohosts, dressed down in work jeans. He loves food, loves his staff and hates Pop Tarts.
Douglas, along with his Seattle Kitchen cohost Thierry Rautureau, will headline the Gig Harbor Wine and Food Festival on July 26. Their radio show will broadcast live at the event.
“We love taking the show on the road,” he said.
Normally, the Seattle Kitchen show is taped at Via6 apartments on a floor that includes a kitchen and lounge. The show moves in each Thursday, bringing Douglas, Rautereau and co-host Katie O, known as “Katie-O On the Go,” together to share ideas, talk to guests and banter. Seattle Kitchen airs on KIRO 97.3 FM each Saturday. It’s also available as a podcast.
It’s been awhile since Douglas has traveled to Gig Harbor. The last time was in 1977 at the Tides Tavern.
A lot has changed since then. He started off at McCormick’s in Seattle and opened his first restaurant, Dahlia Lounge, 25 years ago.
He was 18 when he moved to the Northwest and fell in love with the area. Douglas says its because Northwesterners have a real respect for food and ingredients — which he shares. Also, it’s pretty here. It makes chefs around the country jealous, he said.
Douglas began cooking on the advice of a high school guidance counselor at St. Marks High School in Wilmington, Delaware. At age 17, he got a cook’s helper job. After doing that for seven months, he hopped into his car and drove until the gas money gave out, ending up in Washington state.
Douglas obviously loves talking food and Seattle Kitchen is his way to share with listeners. But sometimes, when he and Rautureau get too “chefy,” O hops in to translate. In many ways, she’s the listener representative, bringing things from the restaurant to the home kitchen. It’s instinctive — she always knows when to cut in.
Tina Nole, who produces the show, helps keep the team on track. She lets the tape run when Douglas gets off track or over time, because she knows he’ll kick it back into gear with a great take.
“See how clever I am?” Nole says to the team. “I’m one step ahead of this guy.”
With all the restaurants, the radio show and the accolades, Douglas still hangs on to the thing that keeps him going: customers. Sometimes he sits outside of one of the restaurants so he can hear the chatter, hear how food can bring people together.
The Wine and Food Festival, which is being held for the fourth time, runs from noon to 5 p.m. July 26 outside the Harbor History Museum, 4121 Harborview Drive.
More than 550 tickets have been sold so far. Admission includes 20 tasting tickets for alcohol and access to special demonstrations from local brewers.
Day of tickets are $90. The event is 21 and older only.Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 email@example.com Twitter: @Gateway_Karen