New in Town is a blog series dedicated to exploring Seattle anew. Every week I’ll highlight a place, person or thing I’ve uncovered on my mission to experience all Seattle has to offer. Read last week’s installment here.
You won’t be long in Seattle before Tom Douglas becomes a household name. (In fact, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of him even if you don’t live here.) The self-taught chef and culinary icon owns a family of restaurants throughout the city, dishing up everything from lamb ravioli at Lola to his signature triple coconut cream pie at Dahlia Bakery. I’ve yet to get my hands on a slice of that pie, but thanks to my clever partner, Alex, and her unmatched ability to execute a surprise, I got to sample a more intimate side of the Tom Douglas empire during an early Valentine’s Day celebration.
When Alex surprised me with a trip to Paris back in 2018, she told me ahead of time to take a week off work, and little else. I didn’t find out where we were going until we started boarding the plane, kind of like a DIY Project X trip. Surprise after surprise, she led me down cobblestone streets, into carefully selected bakeries (there’s a blog post being written in the back of my mind, dedicated entirely to my love of croissants and quest for Seattle’s best), and, after several days of delicious adventures, she proposed. We said oui, I fell in love with this restaurant’s steak frites and life has never been the same. This is to say, I now have high expectations for surprises.
When Alex told me to plan for a long lunch on February 13, she didn’t tell me where we were going, only that I needn’t pack a lunch and that I should plan to be out of the office between 11:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. She picked me up on foot here at the magazine’s office, led me on a brisk walk down Fourth Avenue and through the doors of Hotel Ändra. Halfway up the lobby staircase, I could smell our final destination before I saw it: a doorway into the Hot Stove Society cooking school.
It’s quite a scene to stumble upon: a massive kitchen with a sprawling seating area, cooking demo stage, a recording set where Douglas creates episodes of his Seattle Kitchen podcast, and chefs busy at work in all corners of the space. Alex snagged us tickets for one of the school’s lunch clubs, where guests watch a live cooking demonstration led by a professional chef while eating that same multi-course meal as it's prepared and served by a team of chefs in the school's kitchen. We were led to our seats, poured glasses of bubbly and given a recipe packet for the day’s meal: steak frites!
I was totally surprised, and so glad for the chance to gain new culinary skills without expending much executive function. Chef Bridget Charters walked us through a French meal that holds special meaning after our Paris trip, and I left feeling surprisingly confident in my ability to recreate it—from the cute little amuse-bouche of blue cheese and thyme gougères to salad with freshly made vinaigrette, juicy steak with compound butter, and an apple tarte tatin for dessert.
Though I left feeling hopeful about my kitchen skillset, it’ll be a surprise to all of us if I carve out the time to pull this off at home—making the lavish lunch experience that much more of a treat.
“Hot Stove Society’s Lunch Club is a fabulous way to enjoy a quick meal prepared by excellent chefs, who teach you every trick in their book at a very reasonable price,” Douglas said by email. “[It’s] an awesome way to break up your day, try something new and learn some cooking techniques to share with your friends and family.”