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.
609 W. 11th St., Vancouver