The local food movement is nothing new in Seattle, which is why the city’s sheer volume of local, authentic, family owned and farm-to-table experiences stand out for groups.
“When I work with the big convention groups that are visiting, a lot of people comment that we have so many restaurants that are local to Seattle, and that are so easy and accessible,” says Katy Willis, director, convention services for Visit Seattle.
While the local food scene is very accessible to groups, it is also interactive. Seattle offers everything from farmer’s market tours to urban wine tastings to food science demonstrations. Here are five culinary adventures for groups to check out next time they meet in Seattle.
The latest from Tom Douglas—perhaps Seattle’s most visible chef and owner of 10 area restaurants—is the Hot Stove Society. The cooking school is designed to look like the set of a TV competition and makes for an innovative hands-on teambuilding activity. Meeting planners can organize themed cooking competition or collaborative cooking exercise such as Iron Chef Battle, Mad Men Martinis and Destination Dry Rub for up to 40 attendees. The venue also doubles as a reception space larger groups.
Eat Seattle offers a chef-guided tour through Pike Place Market, where attendees will visit local vendors and learn why chefs pick certain local foods during certain times of year. Groups will get to taste some dishes created by the chef from the ingredients bought in the market. Groups with more time, however, can opt to take a cooking class in the market’s Atrium kitchen after shopping. The experience for about 10 people offers everything from cooking techniques to information about Seattle history.
FareStart is a culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals in the Seattle community. During the 3-month program, participants are given a place to live while they are taught by various Seattle chefs who volunteer to teach. Once participants finish the course, the organization helps them find jobs in the city’s restaurant industry. Groups can dine at the FareStart Restaurant, and all of the proceeds from the restaurant’s lunch service goes to the program. Willis adds that the restaurant has a private dining room, and the city does a lot of group business here because it’s for a good cause.
Modernist Cuisine is a science in Seattle, and the Imagination Food Innovation Group continues to pioneer culinary techniques, recipes and technologies in its Imagine Food space—part research center and part art space. Groups can take classes to learn creative ways of cooking that incorporates all the senses. The space also offers dining experiences, with as many as 15 courses, where the chef will teach the history of each dish and how it was prepared. For instance, a past lesson included an explanation of why peas and carrots became such integral partners. The space also invites the community to visit on any given day to watch the food scientists at work as well as explore the books in the culinary library.
As a strong supporter of the “shop local” movement, Chocolate Box stocks its shelves with some of Seattle’s finest chocolates and wines for attendees to come test out. Urban wine and chocolate tasting tours are available for attendees to learn about the history of the Pacific Northwest’s wine region while tasting locally made chocolates. Interested groups can opt to participate in truffle-making classes to learn interesting tidbits such as how flavors are infused into chocolate.