Maria Hines, chef and owner of Tilth, won this year's James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest. She took time from her busy schedule to talk about sustainability, which chef inspires her most and what she'd eat for a last meal.
Louise McCready: Your restaurant was the second in the US to be certified by Organic Tilth, the non-profit certification group. Was that group the inspiration for your restaurant's name?
Maria Hines: No connection whatsoever.
What was the story behind Tilth's name?
Tilth is the first top layer of soil where all vitality comes from so that's basically a metaphor of my organic and fresh restaurant. It also seems to be very fitting for how we started.
Your restaurant is considered to be beyond organic--your toilet paper is recycled and you use sustainable building materials. What does "beyond organic" mean with regards to food?
Sourcing as local as possible.
You've said Seattle is at the forefront of sustainability. Is that why you chose to open your restaurant? Did you consider other cities?
No, definitely Seattle. The products that we have access to here are great and [Tilth] is close to a lot of local farmers so it's easy to do what we're doing. There's also a lot of support for organic food in the area.What chefs do you find particularly inspiring?
Nora Pouillon [Ed. note: Pouillon's Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C. was the nation's first restaurant to be certified organic].
What do you consider the most under appreciated ingredient that you like to use?
Root vegetables. Celery root in particular.
What would you eat for a last meal?
Chawan mushi. It's a savory custard from Japan.
What is the best piece of cooking advice you've ever received?
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Get more information about Tilth on Savory Cities.