There they were last night, perched at the counter at Steelhead Diner, enjoying a glass of bubbly and gossiping with the chef: Jon Rowley and his wife, Kate McDermott, quietly celebrating their appearance in the new issue of Saveur. The least ostentatious of Seattle’s food stars, Rowley is probably the most influential. He’s the oyster guru, the peach guru, and above all the salmon guru. No one in town has done more to change the way we eat, or the way our farmers and fishers think about the food they grow or catch.
Saveur names Rowley to its Top 100 list for 2008. (Most of the entries aren’t people but food trends and restaurants.) His 500-word biographical sketch is titled Disciple of Flavor. “We admire the passion that’s sustained him in his pursuits, which, in hindsight, more closely resemble a quest than a career.”
The quest is never-ending. “Rowley is acutely curious about what makes a particular food taste good. Environmental factors are crucial, he’s discovered, whether it’s the unique blend of local algae and minerals that allows the Virginica oysters of Totten Inlet, in Washington’s Puget Sound, to grow incomparably plump and sweet, or the precise proportions of water and compost that beget the perfect blackberry.” Rowley carries a refractometer to measure sugar content and tell him everything he needs to know about the plant, whether it’s a blackberry or a peach.
And speaking of blackberries, that’s Kate’s blackberry pie in the upper right-hand corner of the magazine cover. Recipe here.