If you love to eat, Seattle should be on your list. Sure, West Coast cities like San Francisco deservedly get a lot of attention in the foodie world. But, as Seattle chef Scott Mickelson tells us, Seattle is a mighty up-and-comer you don’t want to miss. Named by Zagat as the #5 hottest food city of the year, things are just heating up here.
Hotel 1000 recently welcomed Chef Mickelson, who is from San Diego, to head culinary operations and the on-site Boka Restaurant + Bar, a locals’ favorite. Get to know Chef Scott and why he answered Seattle’s call (and why you should too).
Chef Scott, what fueled your passion for food?
It was my 6th-grade home ec class that first made me realize I had a passion for cooking. We learned how to make donuts and an omelet. I immediately went home and asked my mom to buy me a fryer and an omelet pan. Later at Northern University of Arizona, while studying hotel and restaurant management, I began watching some old-school cooking shows, Great Chefs of the World being the main one. While skipping all my classes, I took notes on the dishes they prepared, went out and bought ingredients, and every night I would cook for all my roommates. We had these big, elaborate dinners every night. It was an event. That was my cue I should make a move to culinary school.
Where has your culinary career taken you so far?
During culinary school in Scottsdale, Arizona, I worked at a restaurant (Earl’s) while in school and did multiple catering gigs. Eventually, I moved to San Diego, California, where the majority of my career has been.
I trained and received a wide variety of experiences, from a small, boutique hotel to several restaurants. I obtained my first real memorable job at the steakhouse Blackhorse Grille. I worked under Ryan Johnson, who became my first mentor and is now a close friend of mine. He now owns a handful of San Diego restaurants. I eventually went to the Grand Del Mar Hotel to be a part of the opening team with Executive Chef Jason McCloud, who became my second mentor. Here, I had the opportunity to take over the hotel’s banquet program and was challenged with bringing it to a whole new level. We had great success and brought attention to the hotel in the catering world.
From San Diego’s Little Italy to a gastropub that focused on game meats like boar, camel and even kangaroo, I have had many diverse experiences in different types of cuisine. My wife and I also had the chance of living our dream, and we opened and ran our own restaurant in Orange County for a few years. Building a restaurant from scratch and running it completely on your own – that was an incredible experience. Finally, I heard about Loews and this opportunity in Seattle, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of this burgeoning food scene.
What about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest inspires you?
Obviously, the seafood. There is incredible seafood in the PNW, especially shellfish, and oysters from the farms in Oregon and Washington. There are also lots of good farms around the region that I really enjoy, and the wild mushrooms up here are incredible. Being in a new environment and new part of the country inspires me. To me, Seattle is an up-and-coming food frontier. For foodies, there’s a feeling like Seattle is in an infant stage but is really a driving force. I got to be a part of that process in San Diego, and I really wanted to be a part of it here in Seattle.
What culinary inspiration are you bringing to BOKA and Hotel 1000?
Being married to a Latina (my wife is Mexican) has always been a source of inspiration for me. We make a lot of dishes at home. I often have a bit of Latino infusion in my cuisine – Mexican, Spanish, Cuban, etc. There are such great flavors; I love the use of different chilies for example.
I’ve been trained in many cuisines and am bringing eclectic flavors from around world into our menus. My focus is on local seasonal ingredients, and how to throw my unique twist into a dish, like the Cuban benedict (described below). Also, we’re definitely focusing on seafood, sustainability, and bringing a uniquely local approach to our food and beverage operation.
Can you share a favorite dish on the new BOKA menu?
The Cuban Benedict, now on our breakfast menu. I love this dish. It’s made of:
– Cuban spice rubbed pork butt that is slowly roasted and very tender, then shredded; it replaces the traditional Canadian bacon
– Served on Torta bread, instead of an English muffin
– Poached egg
– Mojo-flavored hollandaise
– Garnish with pickled Fresno chilies & fresh cilantro
Who’s hungry? Thanks for making our stomachs rumble, Chef Scott. We hope to see you soon in Seattle, and we’ll save you a seat at BOKA!