Friday, October 20, 2017

Seattleite Spotlight: Jenny Izaguirre Takes Over Bell + Whete in Belltown

Bell + Whete welcomes Jenny Izaguirre (ease-uh-ghee-ray) as their new Executive Chef.

Jenny is replacing Stew Navarre, who will be focusing on sister restaurant Local 360, with occasional collaborations at Bell + Whete. On top of being a talented chef, Jenny has a dynamic, warm personality and a fierce passion for food. She hails from Honduras and is a CIA graduate with nearly 10 years under her belt at various Four Seasons properties around the country. She speaks fluent Spanish, English and basic French and Turkish. We had the pleasure to hang out with Jenny and try some of her dishes last week.

Chef Jenny Izaguirre 2

Chef Jenny Izaguirre. Photo by Bell + Whete.

Where did you grow up and how did you first get into cooking?

I was born and raised in Honduras. My mother was American and my father was Honduran. I was born with a love of cooking and baking, and grew up helping in the kitchen, alongside my mother. My first paid kitchen position was in high school working as a cook at the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Residence, where I prepared from-scratch meals for the ambassador and his family as well as for dignitaries from 12 to 1400 people.

After high school I attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Professional Studios in hospitality management and an Associates in Occupational Studies degree in culinary arts.

Chilled NW Oysters. Photo by Michael Lee.

Chilled NW Oysters with Blood Orange Granita. Photo by Michael Lee.

What did you do after culinary school? 

I externed at Four Seasons Boston, then accepted a Sous Chef position at Lure Restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard. Looking to move out to California eventually, I secured a position at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole in Jackson, Wyoming. I started as a Cook Two and worked up to Cook One and then Junior Sous Chef before becoming Chef. I worked and oversaw every outlet of the resort from breakfast to dinner, to off-site catering in remote locations. I focused my culinary talents on game meats, modern pioneer cuisine and sous vide cookery.

During this time, I was also working had the opportunity to work at other properties such as at Palm Beach and Costa Rica. After six years, I moved over to the Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills. I started as Chef Tournant where I worked all the stations, room service/bar/pool/banquet and in the restaurant as Sous Chef. I then transferred to Culina, a modern Italian restaurant at the Four Seasons, as the Chef de Cuisine.

How did you end up in Seattle? How do you like it here so far?

My husband passed away in a motorcycle accident and I wanted to get away from California and make a change. I realized that life is short and wanted to start a new chapter. I love it here and I’m saving up to buy a house. I finally feel like I found my home in the United States. I have a lot of friends concentrated in this area and to me, if you’re my friend, you have my heart and you’re family. I also want to say that I think the “Seattle Freeze” is a lie. It’s just not true. Everyone I’ve met is nice and friendly here.

I don’t want to focus on the fact that you are a chef and you are female, because you are simply a CHEF (regardless of gender). However, I don’t hear about or meet a lot of executive chefs who are women. Do you have any thoughts on this?

It surprises me that there aren’t as many women in charge of kitchens in Seattle. I don’t feel closed out though–I love hanging out with the boys–doing what we do. I have always had the mentality to take charge and just do it. I believe women are capable of the same things as men.

Turkish Spiced Lamb Shank. Photo by Michael Lee.

Turkish Spiced Lamb Shank (the polenta and mushrooms are amazing). Photo by Michael Lee.

Where are you taking Bell + Whete’s menu? 

My late husband was Turkish and I’m looking forward to bringing some of those flavors to Bell + Whete’s Norman menu. I love the challenge of working with new meats, game, seafood and interesting new spices to create a memorable meal for my guests where the ingredients shine.

I am excited to be on this new adventure in Seattle and love the abundance of fresh, local produce available from small farms in the Northwest. I am working to create more small, shareable plates for guests to try more of what they love at Bell + Whete.

Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Jenny. You have such a great vibe and amazing energy. We will be back to try the brunch menu soon!

 

ABOUT BELL + WHETE: Old meets new in this European inspired Seattle gastropub and event space. Featuring outdoor patio seating, timeless recipes, and available off-site catering. The bar has a selection of 66 international and local beers and ciders on tap as well as a bottomless mimosa brunch.

Opens daily at 4:00 pm. Happy Hour is daily from 4:00 to 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm to midnight. Brunch is served on weekends from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Bell + Whete                       |                   200 Bell Street, Seattle                 |           (206) 538 – 0180

About Jennifer Liu

Despite the rain, Jennifer loves Seattle and is a rare native. From the gorgeous summer weather to the drizzle the other 9 months, this may be her forever home. She graduated from the University of Washington and has a master's degree in counseling psychology. She loves to travel, volunteer, and host themed dinner parties. You can find her eating, hiking, hanging out with her awesome dog, or napping. Ice cream, burgers, and sushi are some of her favorite things.
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