Wednesday night, we attended FareStart’s 6th Annual Guest Chef on the Waterfront – a food & wine extravaganza in support of FareStart. FareStart is a non-profit organization in Seattle whose mission is to help homeless and disadvantaged men and women obtain the skills necessary to find employment in the food service industry. Their intensive 16-week culinary program combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction and job placement services. FareStart provides meals to childcare centers and homeless shelters around the Seattle area every day of the year, an endeavor that provides students with valuable training opportunities. Hands-on training also occurs at the FareStart Restaurant located at 7th & Virginia in downtown Seattle. The FareStart Restaurant offers students the chance to prepare meals for hungry workers and downtown shoppers. The restaurant is open every weekday for lunch. On Thursday evenings, the restaurant hosts Guest Chef Night where one of Seattle’s premier chefs heads into the FareStart kitchen and works directly with the students to produce a delicious meal for a restaurant full of diners. The wait staff on Guest Chef Night is comprised of volunteers from local businesses (my company participated in this twice and had a blast each time). Guest Chef Night is a popular event; reservations are strongly recommended.

Another highly anticipated FareStart event is their annual Guest Chef on the Waterfront, a celebration featuring the local chefs and restaurants that support them throughout the year. Some have referred to it as the foodie event of the summer. Guest Chef at the Waterfront brings together over 70 of the region’s best chefs, breweries and wineries. This year’s participating restaurants included relative newcomers Tilikum Place Cafe, Urbane and Cantinetta as well as old Seattle standbys such as Ivar’s and Salty’s on Alki. Beverage purveyors ranged from Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Co. to DrySoda to Georgetown Brewing Company. Of course, there was also wine. Lots and lots of wine courtesy of the Rhone Rangers, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. As with the FareStart restaurant, all proceeds from Guest Chef on the Waterfront directly benefit FareStart’s job training and placement programs. Helping the community with delicious food and drink is a cause I can get behind!

Guest Chef on the Waterfront is held on Seattle’s Pier 66. The weather was absolutely perfect this year; it was so nice just to be on the pier looking out over the water and mountains. The best part of all, however, was the wonderful food and wine! Food and beverage stands were set up in long rows inside Bell Harbor’s Elliott Hall with even more stands located outside on the sunny pier. Upon entering the building, you are given a tray and an empty wine glass and are set free to start eating and drinking. The place was packed! It was pretty challenging getting to some of the food. There was very little room to move, and people were bumping into each other right and left. I’m pretty sure everyone in attendance either spilled food or was spilled upon at some point during the night. After a while, things seemed to ease up, and I was able to sit back and enjoy some delicious nibbles.

Food was served in small portions – just a few perfect bites allowing you to sample many different things. This being Seattle, the dishes were weighted heavily towards seafood. Ceviche was a popular choice. I sampled two: a spicy Moroccan-inspired scallop ceviche and a mixed seafood ceviche in a bloody mary marinade (complete with bloody mary style garnishes of olives and spicy peppers). Lemongrass-scented salmon vichyssoise, halibut cheeks with corn salsa and swordfish with kimchi were among the other seafood dishes I tried. Robert particularly enjoyed 2100 Bistro‘s miniature lamb patty served atop Vietnamese rice noodles. Urbane‘s corn dog also received high praise from our group. Like the food, wine was served in tiny samples. I excitedly tried several varietals I hadn’t had before including Marsanne, Mourvedre and Roussanne. After filling up on dinner and drinks, it was time for dessert. I don’t normally do dessert, but there was no way I was going to pass up fried-to-order nutella-stuffed beignets. The line for beignets was long but worth it. They were incredible! Guest Chef at the Waterfront may be over for this year, but I encourage you to check out lunch or Guest Chef Night at FareStart – it’s good for the students, the community, and your belly!

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