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Our best chef: Hitchcock's own wins national acclaim
Brendan McGill opened his Hitchcock restaurant on Winslow Way in 2010. It has since grown to be culinary contender, standing its dishes up against the best in the region.
Now, the man behind Bainbridge’s most renowned restaurant has made a national name for himself as well. McGill has been named Food & Wine’s “People's Best New Chef” of 2013.
“What’s nice is that it shows you are on their radar,” McGill said.
Each year Food & Wine magazine holds a “people’s choice” poll to select the favored burgeoning chefs in their region.
Chefs must be running new kitchens of 5 years old or less, and McGill was among 100 chefs throughout the nation to be chosen to compete.
“It started with this nomination by the editors, which was cool and exciting for us,” McGill said. “They nominated 10 chefs per region.”
McGill credits local support for getting Food & Wine’s attention. Hitchcock was among the 10 best restaurants in the area in 2011 as chosen by the Seattle Times and Seattle Met magazine.
“[The Seattle Times] did this thing called ‘critic picks’ with best dishes they like and ours was featured in that,” McGill recalled. “If you’re Food & Wine magazine and you are looking at rising stars, it would be hard to miss the regional press.”
While the editors of Food & Wine magazine took note of the good press Hitchcock was amassing in the Seattle scene, it wasn’t up to them to select the best of the best. The contest was entirely voted upon by foodies.
Fans of McGill and Hitchcock had only one week to spread the word about the contest, but the task didn’t prove to be too difficult. Hitchcock has vocal friends.
Seattle bloggers put the word out. Hitchcock is an avid supporter of local farms, so in turn, farmers advertised through their own networks. McGill even graced TV screens in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“I flew back to my hometown and I did a piece that ended up airing on the nightly news,” McGill said. “People up there care. They have pride in the people from around there.”
When the votes came in last week, McGill not only won the title of people's best new chef in the Northwest and Pacific region, he also took the prize for people's best new chef in the nation.
In addition to the honorable title, McGill and Hitchcock will be featured in the July issue of Food & Wine magazine.
They’ll have plenty to cover. Hitchcock is a distinctive experience. While many in the Seattle restaurant scene can boast unique bistro fare or upscale culinary ambiance, Hitchcock derives its grand menu chiefly from the ground up on Bainbridge.
“Everything that is available in the local farm scene is what we have,” McGill said. “We’ve worked on not having anything that doesn’t come from our local farms.”
“The easiest way to describe [Hitchcock] is that it’s Pacific Northwest food with a European influence, but driven 100 percent by our bounty here,” he added.
McGill’s hardcore local leanings go as far as Neah Bay, where he sources much of his seafood.
Unlike other restaurants that will offer items flown in from afar, Hitchcock works wonders with what the Salish Sea has to offer.
“If halibut comes in, we have halibut,” McGill said. “What is landing on the shores of Washington is what we have.”
And nothing goes to waste. McGill notes, for example, that when Heyday Farms unloads an order of pork, he’ll take all they have.
“Not everybody had a plan for pork liver,” he said.
But McGill does.
Another aspect of Hitchcock that McGill boasts is that he likes to serve a range of patrons, not just those with high end tastes. He makes certain to have good old-fashioned fare available for those uncomfortable with getting too experimental.
“I always keep the roast chicken on the menu,” he said. “It’s my anti-snobbery insurance.”
McGill is also is in charge of the accompanying side business, Hitchcock Deli, where patrons can purchase soups and sandwiches in addition to local farm-fresh products and McGill’s cured meats.
Hitchcock also offers a happy hour every weekday from 5 to 6 p.m. and 9 to
10 p.m. with a $5 menu.
And for those who are inclined to venture into McGill’s talents, Hitchcock has a standing menu offering: Name your price. Guests offer a dollar amount for a meal, and McGill will create something within the budget.
The local, fresh and flexible formula has worked well for Hitchcock. The name is renowned amongst the Seattle restaurant scene. But McGill plans to expand its reach, closer to home where he is often surprised to find islanders unaware of the operation.
“We have a foothold in the market here and it’s interesting because we have local support from the vocal minority,” he said. “But there are also tons and tons of Bainbridge Islanders who have no idea that on their island is a restaurant getting national attention.”
“It’s possible there are more people in Seattle who know they can come over here to get a special kind of bacon than there are people on the island who know,” McGill added.