This Thanksgiving brings a close-knit holiday at home with loved ones, a day that we at Ray’s would otherwise be happily working for you. It’s a glimpse of reality the year has bestowed upon the restaurant industry.
However different this holiday may look, there is still plenty for which we can be thankful. As a chef, I am always grateful for the bounty the Pacific Northwest has to offer, and the countless people that work every day to ensure that it arrives on our holiday tables. From the farmers of Eastern Washington to the fishermen of Alaska, salespeople to the delivery drivers, the simple act of providing a warm meal requires a multitude of passionate professionals. The Thanksgiving meal is an amazing testament to the complex coordination between these people and is truly something to be thankful for each and every day.
Anne Utigard of King’s Garden is one such person. Once per week she drives from her farm in Eastern Washington over the Cascades to Seattle to deliver her produce to many local Seattle restaurants. Crates of summer-ripened tomatoes give way to autumn sunchokes and squash. Ray’s is lucky to be one of her first stops, both for the quality of her vegetables and for the kindness of her spirit, as anyone who has met Anne can tell you. I look forward to the next time her truck comes rattling into the parking lot.
I’m thankful for our relationship with Fish & Family Seafoods, a family-run business led by Lexi and Adam Hackett out of Sitka, Alaska. They supply us with pristine wild Alaska King salmon, and kind enough to be our guides around Sitka on a Ray’s Managers’ trip a few years back. At Rays, we are also, along with so many of our regular guests, grateful for Penn Cove Shellfish. Multiple generations of Ray’s chefs have had the pleasure of working with Penn Cove mussels, clams and oysters over the past 5 decades (the first Penn Cove delivery to Ray’s was in 1977!). Rawle Jefferds, one of the founders, still hand-delivers shellfish twice per week, without fail a smile on his face, eager to share the pleasures of the sea.
From land—or sea—to your plate is a long trip, and there are many hands on your food in between. Without them and their logistical savvy, getting food onto your plate would be impossible. Eydfinn Tausen of Olympic Seafoods has a knack for sourcing some of Neah Bay’s highest quality sablefish, for which anyone who has tried Ray’s sablefish in sake kasu should be grateful! As well, he coordinates the delivery of thousands of pounds of fat, oily keta salmon straight from Alaska’s Yukon River to Ray’s Boathouse every year. Daniel Shilley, our Merlino Foods delivery driver, is another of thanks. He is the ideal driver: neat, organized, controlled, and calm, a welcome sight twice weekly bearing sacks of flour, jugs of oils, and boxes of luxury. Daniel is always looking for ways to help and goes above and beyond the call of delivery driver.
By no means is this list exhaustive, there are so many more people that I could share, too many in fact. Thanks go to all of you!
Most of all, I am grateful for the amazing staff we have at Ray’s. For my fellow chefs, cooks, dishwashers, front of house staff, and everyone else. They work extremely hard to provide high quality food and service day in and day out. To all my industry friends and colleagues: stay strong, we will get through this time together, and use this time to reflect on what really matters in life and in work. I look forward to cooking and eating with all of you very soon!
During this holiday season, please be safe and stay at home. Wear your mask, and social distance. Please. Try out a new dish that you normally wouldn’t. This Thanksgiving is different, and it’s okay if your holiday table looks different, too! Support local independent restaurants and other small businesses, whether that is ordering take-out/delivery, buying gift cards, or just staying home and being safe so we can all get back to work. Tip, well and often. Urge your local Senator to support the RESTAURANTS ACT which would establish a $120 billion Independent Restaurant Revitalization Fund. We must support our independent restaurants and the thousands of farmers, fishermen, delivery drivers, and others that rely on them!
Finally, a big “thank you” to all health care workers who are working every day on the front lines to keep us all safe!
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays,
Executive Chef Kevin Murray