by Paul Duncan, Chef de Cuisine
WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY INFLUENCES AS A CHEF?
I’m proud to be from the Northwest. When I cooked in Portland, there was a movement happening with a handful of chefs before it was called ‘farm to table” We had farmers that only we used to buy from, and they’d tell stories about their products – why these beets were ideal thing to grow on their land, and that they would only pick them after a certain number of lightning strikes because they were then perfectly sweetened. They were so proud of their food and I was honored to be connected to that movement.
HOW DOES THAT AFFECT WHAT YOU’LL DO AT RAY’S?
We can do the same thing with seafood and we can do it with produce. We will be local when possible, cost willing, and display good practices. I’m worried about the ocean, and the state of our environment, and as a seafood restaurant, it’s disconcerting. We will continue to increase our connection to “local” and lead by example; people expect that of a Northwest restaurant, especially Ray’s.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE?
My first experience in fine dining was a combination of Italian and Spanish, almost peasant food. You could describe it as “comfort food with an edge”, what people would cook from everyday ingredients. I believe in using amazing local ingredients, grown well and cooked well, and let the quality speak for itself. For example, our Cedar Planked Salmon is served with white bean cassoulet and rosemary; that’s a Mediterranean twist. Or our fresh housemade pasta paired with local clams or smoked sablefish, bringing those ingredients together to let them shine.
WHAT CHANGES ARE YOU HOPING TO IMPLEMENT?
I want to do right by the people who show up and work with me every day. I want to make their job challenging, pleasant and fun – that makes my job easier too. I strive to bring new inspiration to our cuisine, and make smart, straight forward changes that make sense. For example, I look at what we did at Ray’s in 2001 when we won a James Beard Award. We defined Northwest seafood and people had never had anything like it. I’m looking into why we were so successful and use that as a template for to start and put my twist on the menu.
HOW DO YOU KEEP RAY’S COMPETITIVE IN THE GROWING BALLARD FOOD SCENE?
We continue to offer an elevated level of cuisine and service , and our view will always pay off! I want to be known as not necessarily “reinvented” but re-established. It’s important people know we are not changing the game, but re-establishing our prominence in the Seattle restaurant community.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT WORKING, WHERE DO YOU EAT?
I love to eat at Bitterroot, where the bar is set back so far no one can find you. I love Palace Kitchen and I fell in love with Restaurant Zoe in Belltown. I live on Queen Anne so pizza at Via Tribunali or sandwiches at Hilltop are standbys for me.
TIME TO ORDER UP YOUR “LAST MEAL” – WHAT”S IT GOING TO BE?
I’m a big sucker for pasta, so spaghetti aglio e olio, a hunk of crusty bread and an underdressed salad is perfect for me. I appreciate dessert, but it has to be simple, not overly sweet or dense. For example, ice cream or affogato (espresso and ice cream) is nice if I’m going to have dessert, but it’s not a must. But I do love those donuts at Dahlia Lounge!
After 10 months as Executive Sous Chef at Ray’s, Paul Duncan was elevated to Chef de Cuisine in March 2014 and oversees all culinary operations at Ray’s.
Ray’s reputation as one of the top seafood restaurants in Seattle is a direct reflection of Chef Paul’s talent and dedication. Our waitstaff is always happy to describe Chef Paul’s dinner specials with mouthwatering detail and the freshest seafood from the Pacific Northwest.