Don’t feel bad if you’re eating Cool Ranch Doritos, brownies made from a mix or cheap frozen pizza right now — some of Seattle’s best chefs are, too. Their world is currently stressful beyond measure, and even the James Beard award-winners aren’t ashamed to go beyond comfort food to the straight-up junk. We caught up with some of them to find out what forms of sugar and/or MSG they’re turning to during the time of coronavirus, and to ask them the question everyone’s asking all their friends and loved ones these days: “How are you holding up?”

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MUTSUKO SOMA, Kamonegi and Hannyatou in Fremont (offering takeout and delivery):

Chef Mutsuko Soma is carrying on with takeout at her Fremont spots Kamonegi and Hannyatou during the coronavirus pandemic. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Chef Mutsuko Soma is carrying on with takeout at her Fremont spots Kamonegi and Hannyatou during the coronavirus pandemic. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

My go-to junk food is MAMA instant ramen. It is a ramen produced for a long time in Thailand, and I always eat this as a snack and sometimes for breakfast. You can’t blame me with this crazy world now. I usually like to save the broth, then put onigiri in and make it like a simple rice soup in the end as well.

Takeout and delivery business has not been great, but we are keeping positive and pushing through since we do get a lot of kind words and support from our community. I have also started a fundraiser to provide meals to hospital workers. … We wanted to do something more than just stay open. The only thing we can do is cook, but if that can help our community grow stronger and help others in need at this time, I am happy to work hard.

 

DAVID GUREWITZ, La Dive on Capitol Hill (offering takeout and delivery):

Junk food? Oh, Cool Ranch Doritos by a mile. The king of the snack aisle. The queen is Cheetos Chile Limón.

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The weight of the pandemic has given our collective resourcefulness an ass-whooping and marginalized much of our day-to-day. I know I’m craving a good dose of optimism, yet I’m having a hard time prioritizing my thoughts. You know when you drop a raw egg on the floor and you’re paralyzed with inactivity over how best to clean it up? Dustpan? Towel? Uff da.

Here’s hoping for some good news.

 

HOLLY SMITH, Cafe Juanita in Kirkland (offering takeout):

Chef Holly Smith in the kitchen of Cafe Juanita, now settled into its its coronavirus takeout mode. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Chef Holly Smith in the kitchen of Cafe Juanita, now settled into its its coronavirus takeout mode. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

I am buying crappy things I never buy — mostly to make my kid feel like something new is happening, if only that Mom’s buying way more sweets and, oddly, pretzels.

I think the junk food thing is also a comfort food one, and I realize now that it really is nostalgic, because: brownie mix. From a box! A friend went shopping for me and brought me Ghirardelli brownie mix — it reminds me of when I was 13 or so. And it must be the new toilet paper, because I tried to get another box the next day, and zip, nada. I know they’re easy to make, but there is something magical about the box! Though less dishes may be the deciding factor.

We really are eating as well as we can through this, and I hope people are keeping their bodies well nourished. … All of this vigilance is beginning to wear on me.

 

WAYNE JOHNSON, nonprofit FareStart (which just delivered its 100,000th free emergency meal since the COVID-19 crisis hit — donate now!):

Oh my goodness, what the heck is going on? Now I’m putting down a half-bag of pistachios every other day. Grilled PB&J is always a go-to. And last but not least, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — yum!

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MATT TINDER, Saboteur Bakery in Bremerton (offering takeout):

Matt Tinder of Bremerton’s excellent Saboteur Bakery dusts almond croissants with powdered sugar in a Seattle Times file photo from precoronavirus times.  (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Matt Tinder of Bremerton’s excellent Saboteur Bakery dusts almond croissants with powdered sugar in a Seattle Times file photo from precoronavirus times. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

This whole thing made me realize I’ve never had anything sweet in my house: no honey, no sugar. Crazy! So I’ve been bringing some home. And I’ve been on some ice cream lately: Häagen-Dazs bars. Also 7-Eleven Big Bites: Forgot how good they were. A nitrate is a nitrate.

We are holding up well, trying to follow our hearts and bring a bit of happiness to people’s days. We’re adjusting to what is best for our customers — a balance between something special to take minds off of crazy stuff, and something with substance that will feed a family for a few days.

 

TAICHI KITAMURA, Sushi Kappo Tamura (offering takeout):

Sushi Kappo Tamura chef/owner Taichi Kitamura, shown here in a 2010 photo, likes a good ol’ bologna sandwich. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Sushi Kappo Tamura chef/owner Taichi Kitamura, shown here in a 2010 photo, likes a good ol’ bologna sandwich. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

My junk food pick: bologna and American cheese on white bread, with more mayo than mustard.

We are lucky to have the support from our loyal regulars that order sushi to go. It’s nice to see them and say hi (from healthy social distances). It’s hard enough for restaurants like ours that are around for a long time — I can’t imagine how it is for the newer restaurants. We need some substantial financial help from someone or something to bring us back. … I look forward to seeing everyone when this [expletive]show is all over.

 

HEATHER EARNHARDT, The Wandering Goose and The Tokeland Hotel in Tokeland (both temporarily closed):

With both of my businesses temporarily closed, I honestly don’t have much of an appetite. I’m stressed about my employees and both places being able to come out on the other side of this. If I eat anything at all, it’s my homemade kimchi, popcorn and cheap frozen pizzas. It’s the only thing I can seem to stomach right now. The kimchi must be a [expletive]-up way of telling myself I’m being semihealthy through all of this…? And it’s pretty much the only [expletive] vegetable I’ve eaten in weeks, I think.

In the big scheme of things, it isn’t looking good for a lot of us in the industry. No [expletive] joke.

 

DRE NEELY, Gravy on Vashon Island (temporarily closed):

Junk food means happy hour every day — before 5 p.m. — with all the chips, pub cheese and crackers.

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We are working on our comeback plan, reinventing what we were doing. It’s got to be different!

 

BILL JEONG, Paju on Lower Queen Anne (offering takeout):

Paju’s co-owners Chunghoon Jeong, left, and Bill Jeong, right, in prepandemic times at their top-notch modern Korean spot in Lower Queen Anne — lucky for us, they’re doing takeout. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Paju’s co-owners Chunghoon Jeong, left, and Bill Jeong, right, in prepandemic times at their top-notch modern Korean spot in Lower Queen Anne — lucky for us, they’re doing takeout. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

I feel like I have gained at least 10 pounds during this whole pandemic because after work, I will go home and make myself a Shin Ramyun and add rice at the end.

 

MAXIMILLIAN PETTY, Eden Hill Provisions (offering takeout and delivery) and Eden Hill (temporarily closed) in Upper Queen Anne:

Chef/owner Maximillian Petty of Eden Hill has been snacking on his version of trail mix. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Chef/owner Maximillian Petty of Eden Hill has been snacking on his version of trail mix. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

My wife and I like to make this [expletive]-up version of trail mix where we take salted roasted almonds, peanut M&M’s, baby Reese’s Cups, pretzels and any form of any kind of chocolate chunks. That’s dinner. And with the kids, we eat whatever the [expletive] they’re eating — I think they think mac ’n’ cheese and barbecue sauce is the cure for corona, ’cause that’s all they’ll eat right now, and I’ve just accepted it ’cause I’m exhausted.

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All of this has hit this community hard, and I’m very lucky I have the staff that I have, and that I have two little kids who have no idea what is going on that I can be around to keep my chin up, because without them, I don’t know how I would survive. I worry for many in my industry that are struggling and feeling alone. Let’s make sure everyone knows that they aren’t alone. ’Cause some days when your bank accounts and relationships are crumbling around you, it sure [expletive] feels like it.

 

MARIA HINES, Tilth in Wallingford (offering takeout):

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit Seattle, chef Maria Hines of Tilth has been living off her retirement savings to try and keep her restaurant going. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit Seattle, chef Maria Hines of Tilth has been living off her retirement savings to try and keep her restaurant going. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Cannabis chocolate — it increases my dopamine levels and chills me out from all the mega, mega stress. And pizza! Pizza! Pizza! I generally eat paleo-ish, so pizza is definitely a guilty pleasure, but I can’t really say I feel guilty about it, given current circumstances.

 

SHOTA NAKAJIMA: Adana and Taku on Capitol Hill (the latter offering takeout):

Chef Shota Nakajima has been purloining ice cream from his roommate… guess that cat’s out of the bag. (The Seattle Times)
Chef Shota Nakajima has been purloining ice cream from his roommate… guess that cat’s out of the bag. (The Seattle Times)

I have eaten an unhealthy amount of ice cream through all this. I have cookie dough, double chocolate and vanilla in the freezer. My roommate has some ice cream sandwiches and vanilla almond Swiss that I periodically steal in small portions so she won’t notice.

I won’t lie — it’s been really tough. The first week I had ridiculous amounts of panic attacks (which I never get), but slowly I’ve been able to get more logical and think about the things I can do, rather than thinking about the things I can’t do. I am trying my hardest every day to do what I think a good leader does: inspire. New ideas, and something to look forward to, and leading by example. With extra dad jokes to make it an awkwardly fun work environment.

 

BRUCE NAFTALY, Marmite on Capitol Hill (offering takeout and delivery):

These are weird, awful times. … I do love potato chips, and my chip consumption (ahem — only organic “healthy” ones, of course!) has definitely increased in this crisis.

 

RACHA HAROUN, Mamnoon on Capitol Hill (offering takeout):

The occasional CBD/THC chocolate that helps me cope has been an amazing naughty pleasure.

 

NATHAN LOCKWOOD, Altura and Carrello on Capitol Hill:

When in isolation with a 10-year-old, certain things are quickly missed. Smash burgers were among the first requests and one of the more successful — we were able to create a pretty solid processed-cheese substitute using real ingredients, and, after a couple tries, a solid bun. Potato chips and fries, too, and as we’re not wasting anything right now, spicy fried potato skins as well.