Chef Profile

Sebastian Carosi – Muddy Waters

photo by mary preiser potts

A passionate food advocate, Sebastian Carosi has spent his career as a chef connecting small farmers to restaurant kitchens from one coast to the other. Visiting small farms, establishing farmers markets and farm-to-table initiatives, giving cooking demonstrations to pig farmers and artisan cheesemakers and inviting farmers to bring their weekly produce to his back door are just some of the ways Carosi stays connected to his food sources.

“Farmers don’t always know how to communicate with restaurants to sell their products. I’ve tried to encourage that as much as possible because in the kitchens where I cook I think it’s best if the farmers write the menu,” Carosi said.

Farmers do have a hand in writing the menu for Muddy Waters, the restaurant Carosi opened in downtown Vancouver last August. The menu is decidedly southern but the ingredients are indigenous and seasonal. He spends lots of time outside his “from scratch” kitchen developing relationships with the local farmers who supply his meat, shopping for produce at the Vancouver Farmers Market and foraging for wild edibles.

“When the land gives something up for free, you have to take advantage of it. It’s a shame that so much food is wasted because of ignorance about what’s edible,” Carosi said.

Beyond wild mushrooms, he forages locally for stinging nettles, cattails, wild celery, wild garlic, salmon berries, fiddlehead ferns and watercress, to name just a few. His menu is carefully crafted to reflect the philosophy that what grows together goes together.

The bar at Muddy Waters is another point of distinction. With more than 120 artisan made spirits exclusively from Washington and Oregon, according to Carosi, it may be the largest collection of local liquors in the Pacific Northwest.

Originally from Rhode Island, Carosi obtained his culinary degree from Portland’s Western Culinary Institute. He worked as executive chef at Tribeca before making his way to the Southeast, where he immersed himself in southern cooking while bringing his brand of food activism and enlightenment to local food scenes up and down the East Coast.

It was by chance or perhaps a bit of serendipity that brought Carosi back to the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver gains a sustainably sourced restaurant, as well as an experienced chef dedicated to supporting the local and regional purveyors who help write his menu.

Sebastian Carosi

Muddy Waters

609 W. 11th St., Vancouver


OurBar can be your bar, too

Kevin Credelle and Alex Yost

photo by mary preiser potts

Meet Kevin Credelle and Alex Yost of OurBar, a brand new gathering place in downtown Washougal. Credelle and Yost met four years ago in a Boulder, Colorado, pub. They were drawn together by a common love of food preparation and occasional fine dining. OurBar is the culmination of years spent passionately critiquing restaurant experiences.

“We would say things like: When we open our bar, it’ll be like this…or that,” Yost said.

When they decided to open “their” bar, they wanted to create more than just a place to drink. They wanted it to be a place to build community, open all day and family friendly. They wanted the folks who came to eat and drink to feel that it was “their” bar, too. So, they hunted around for just the right name to convey this sense of community. In the end OurBar, with its double meaning, had just the right feel.

Both Yost and Credelle have a long history in the restaurant business. Credelle got his start in coffee shops as a barista and later worked at the Boulder Brewery. As well as being an avid beverage historian, he’s also a self-taught cook skilled in kitchen management and operations. Yost attended the Oregon Culinary Institute and worked with exceptional chefs in Portland, Boulder and San Francisco. Also in her background is a love of performing, which she later found useful working in open kitchens. This is how OurBar is set up as well, allowing them to interact with their customers as they work. In fact, they built a counter right at the side window where passersby can watch Yost expertly roll out pasta or bread dough each day.

The menu at OurBar is inspired mostly by family recipes and old recipes, re-imagined with seasonal ingredients. One of these dishes is the Flank Steak a la Plancha, made with ginger, hot sauce, potatoes and parsley.

“A lot of traditional recipes that we like from the 40’s need to be updated to include ingredients that just weren’t accessible at the time, like fresh ginger,” Credelle explained.

A tall bookshelf lined with cookbooks sits in the front window, evidence of their broad interest in cooking.

They’re starting their menu with coffee and breakfast. Later, they’ll add Sunday brunch, then lunch and finally dinner. Because many of the recipes on the menu are rich and buttery, they’ve decided to keep the portions reasonable and the prices low so people can come back day after day and try new things. Most items on the menu are under $10.

“We’re a small operation, just three employees, so starting out slow, adding items over time, allows us to get a feel for the business and for the local food palate,” Alex said.

They intend to utilize local small farms as much as possible and, in the future, a small vegetable plot at their house just up the street.

Crave Grille

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photos by buck heidrick

Chef Jake Hambleton worked for his family’s sawmill business, but had always loved cooking. He and a co-worker, Mike Miller, started a small catering business on the side, and talked about expanding operations, possibly opening a food cart. As they grappled with Clark County regulations for food carts, they realized that the building they were considering for a “home base” kitchen could just as easily become a restaurant. And so, Crave Grille opened in downtown Vancouver in late 2011, serving breakfast and lunch to downtown workers, visitors and locals hunting for the perfect burger.

Hambleton is a self-taught chef, and most of his recipes are his own concoctions. “Our most popular items are our Kobe beef burgers,” he said. Sandwiches are a restaurant staple – from burgers to pulled pork, to roasted turkey, or a Cuban sandwich made with ham that Hambleton smokes on-site. “We also smoke our own salmon,” he said. On Fridays, “folks are beating down the door for the smoked salmon chowder.”

And with good reason. The salmon in the New England-style chowder is perfectly smoked and fills every spoonful. A cup is a hearty meal in and of itself, but visitors would do well to leave room for a burger or sandwich made to order, maybe with a side of waffle-cut sweet potato fries. Or, if you’re trying to behave, you could try a salad with house-made Caesar dressing, topped with portobello mushrooms.

Crave is a welcome addition to Vancouver’s growing dining scene, serving Hambleton’s basic, hearty food with a gourmet sensibility.

Crave Grille

609 W. 11th Ave., Vancouver

360-816-0054 | Facebook icon