When I call to schedule an interview with Harry O’s chef Ian Wingate, I’m told he’s out at Eagle Hardware.
Picking up a special meat-tenderizing hammer, maybe?
Well, no. It turns out he was purchasing some plastic tubing to repair the restaurant’s steam trays. Later, he could be found painting the bathrooms to get the place in shape for its recent debut as an upscale dinner house.
This energetic young man is truly multitalented.
“I wanted it done. I didn’t have the time to wait,” Wingate, 26, said matter-of-factly.
Wingate’s cooking career actually began with a paintbrush in hand. He was studying art when he discovered the satisfaction of creating food as a outlet for his artistic talent.
“I just love cooking. I can’t shut my brain off at night, thinking about it,” he said. “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea.”
After making the switch from art to food, Wingate attended the California Culinary Academy. While going to school, he worked at several prestigious eateries in the San Francisco Bay area, including The Lark Creek Inn, which was frequented by such celebrities as Robin Williams and Barbra Streisand. He later spent six months as an apprentice with Roy Yamaguchi, the respected chef with a chain of innovative restaurants in the Hawaiian islands.
Wingate moved to Spokane to be near his mother and has spent the past year in the kitchen at Harry O’s Fresh Market (508 E. Third, 458-2202). Just a few weeks ago, he introduced an ambitious dinner menu that focuses on classic dishes with updated twists.
“I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to be like everyone else,” Wingate said.
That’s clear from reading his menu, which includes a veal chop with fig jam; sirloin marinated in chianti and lemon grass; fresh grilled porcini and portobello mushrooms on sweet red pepper pasta; and osso bucco, veal shanks braised in a full-flavored Italian red wine.
One thing all the meals have in common is that the ingredients must be impeccably fresh.
“That’s been a lot harder to do than you would think,” Wingate said. “I spend a lot of time on the phone trying to track things down.”
He personally goes down to the seafood purveyor to pick out the evening’s featured fish.
Not surprisingly, Wingate spends nearly every waking moment doing something that relates to food.
“I can’t believe how fast the day goes by. I’ll get here at 7 in the morning and the next thing I know, it’s 11 at night,” he said.
When he finally does make it home, cooking is the last thing he wants to do.
“I don’t cook at all at home,” he said. “I don’t even own a pot.”
Spring Soup With Morel Mushrooms
Wingate’s light meal showcases some of the freshest flavors of the season.
8 cups water
3 baby artichokes, trimmed
6 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 pound Swiss chard, sliced
2 shallots, peeled and diced
1 stalk lemon grass
3 ounces fresh morel mushrooms (available at specialty produce stores)
2 pounds fresh sugar snap peas, shelled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Halve the artichokes, remove chokes and slice thin, leaving leaves intact. Bring water to boil with salt (to taste). Add artichokes, potatoes, Swiss chard, shallots, lemon grass and fresh morels. Cover and cook at a low boil for 15 minutes. Add peas and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove and discard the lemon grass.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and olive oil. Add freshly ground pepper. Stir a small ladle of broth into egg mixture. Remove the soup from the heat and slowly stir in the egg mixture. Serve at once with shredded Parmesan sprinkled on top.
Yield: 6 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 221 calories, 6.4 grams fat (26 percent fat calories), 10 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrate, 60 milligrams cholesterol, 99 milligrams sodium.
Chef du Jour is a monthly feature of IN Food that profiles area chefs and provides one of their recipes for readers to try at home.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo