Love in Every Dish: A Chat with Chef Sabrina Tinsley

Osteria la Spiga co-owner and chef talks traditional Italian cuisine and inspiring ingredients
| Updated: November 27, 2018

Sponsored by FareStart

A knife, a spatula and love for her craft.

These are three essentials that Sabrina Tinsley, chef and co-owner of Osteria la Spiga on Capitol Hill, always has in her kitchen.

The chef's love for cooking originated at home at her mother's "apron strings" as she prepared farm-to-table meals for the many guests the family entertained at their home in Fairbanks, Alaska.

After a degree in elementary education and many travels throughout Europe, Tinsley gained a love for traditional Italian cuisine now showcased at the Northern Italian eatery she co-founded with husband Pietro Borghesi.

We got to chat up the popular chef about battling Bobby Flay on Iron Chef, her love for Italian cooking (a joy she shares with Borghesi), and the more than 15 years of work she's done with FareStart, a Seattle-based nonprofit that helps provide culinary job training and placement for disadvantaged adults. On September 22, Tinsley will host the organization's Guest Chef Night event, a three-course gourmet meal FareStart students help prepare at its downtown restaurant every Thursday night. Make your reservations here.

If you could dine with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Maya Angelou

You can only have one meal for the rest of your life. What is it?

Uni nigiri

Where is your favorite spot for a bite to eat in Seattle?

That is a very hard question because I truly enjoy so many Seattle restaurants, but I would say that after all of these years, Nishino is still my favorite go-to for its exquisite sushi.

Where do you get inspiration for your dishes at La Spiga?

Inspiration comes from so many different places, but mostly my inspiration comes from the ingredients themselves. I am also inspired by my travels throughout Italy and by the enthusiasm expressed by my staff and customers.

How did you come up with the menu for your FareStart Guest Chef Night?

It's a choice of practicality and simplicity mostly. I want the students to feel successful and at the same time showcase what La Spiga is known for.

What inspired your involvement with FareStart? What have you enjoyed about it?

I love teaching and inspiring. If I can help someone make a better life for themselves, it gives me a great sense of personal satisfaction. Since my involvement with FareStart more than 15 years ago, I have enjoyed watching the program grow and prosper.

What is your cooking philosophy?

Let the ingredients shine by not overcomplicating a dish, put lots of love into every step of the dish from the prep to the final presentation, and respect the ingredientsthe animals that gave their lives and the people who raised them.

What advice would you give to aspiring chefs?

Learn as much as you can from every person you encounter and to this end, a good dose of humility and common sense go a long way. Oh, and check your ego and personal life at the door.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?

Never talk to strangers.

What was your favorite part about competing on Iron Chef?

Watching the show unfold behind the scenes.

What does your culinary future look like?

My time in the kitchen will be spent playing with ingredients and inventing new dishes and products and perhaps developing one or more of the many business concepts that are constantly swirling around in my head.

In three words, how would you describe your cooking style?

Traditional, accessible, comforting.


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