King salmon and Cheez Whiz

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature, Kitchen Table Talk

It was a text message eight years in the making.

My younger son, Brett, is a chef. He has a degree from the University of Tennessee and restaurant work experience that started when he was in high school. He has his father’s love of good food and his maternal grandmother’s love of hospitality. Like his Gran, he loves to see people enjoy a good meal that he created.

Eight years ago when he moved to Seattle to be with the love-of-his-life and now wife, Olivia, he knew he was leaving a career that was just starting to bloom here in Knoxville. Having graduated from UT, he was back with Randy Burleson’s family of restaurants, working on some creative and interesting concepts that we were all excited to see develop.

But love called, and Brett left, promising me that finding a job was his first priority.

I wasn’t worried about it being a priority. Perhaps unfortunately, what Brett got from his mother is her over-zealous work ethic. I knew Brett would go to work. I worried that he would not find that creative outlet that had just recently become so important to him.

So when Brett called as he stood in front of the steps of a first-class, high-end restaurant on Seattle’s waterfront, wondering if he was even qualified for the prep chef position for which he was interviewing, I saw a decade of early morning vegetable chopping, breaking down whole fish, preparing stock and pushing plates to the serving staff.

The restaurant, Palisade, captured his heart. It was Restaurants Unlimited’s flagship restaurant in the Northwest. The menus were creative and made good use of the region’s local offerings, from salmon and halibut to Washington apples. Brett got the prep chef job that he was over-qualified to do, dug his heels in and went to work – learning, adapting and showing them what his skills were.

The text message last week, sent to his wife, his father, brother and sister-in-law and me, was a picture of Palisade’s Chef’s Seasonal Selections menu, by Executive Chef Brett Howell, with wine pairing by the restaurant’s sommelier, Sarah Witt.

Chef Brett Howell

It was eight years in the making, and we all popped our buttons with pride.

And the menu! It showcases local fisheries, market-fresh produce and fish and meat flown in just for Palisade. I thought of my friend, Michelle Brewer, when I saw Brown Butter Scallops with Roasted Pork Belly and Balsamic Fig Compote. For Meg and John Retinger, a Snake River Farms Gold Wagyu Manhattan-Cut New York Steak. For Cynthia Moxley, Pacific Northwest Cioppino, featuring King salmon, Alaskan cod, King crab, clams and mussels.

There is no happiness like seeing your children happy and great satisfaction in seeing them succeed through talent and hard work.

I put away the Cheez Whiz and Ritz crackers I had bought in a weak moment and picked up flight schedules for my next trip. There’s someone in Seattle who is ready to cook for me.


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