2015 Seattle Rising Star Charcutier Brendan McGill of Hitchcock Deli

2015 Seattle Rising Star Charcutier Brendan McGill of Hitchcock Deli
November 2015

Brendan McGill has been cooking in Seattle for more than a decade, but he got his start as a porter in Fairbanks, Alaska. As a teenager, he worked his way from dish pit, to prep, to line cook. While catering a wedding McGill realized the integrity of being a chef, and the impact it can have on a community. He went on to earn a culinary degree at the Art Institute of Seattle. 

McGill gained his footing at Pike Place’s Il Bistro and later was the opening chef of The Apartment. He then took the opportunity to work with Chef Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez at Harvest Vine.

After traveling throughout Spain and South America, McGill picked up at Crémant, affording him insight into running a business. As executive chef for the Via Tribunali group, McGill received a crash-course in multi-unit management. In 2010, inspired and on a mission to get closer to food, he opened casual fine-dining spot Hitchock on Bainbridge, supporting local farmers, nourishing locals, and creating a cuisine specific to the island—and building a destination restaurant worthy of a ferry ride. With the same ethos, two Hitchcock Delis followed, one in Georgetown on the mainland. In 2013, McGill was named “The People’s Best New Chef” by Food & Wine, and in 2014 was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for “Best Chef: Northwest,” and was named Eater Seattle's “Chef of the Year.”

Interview with Seattle Rising Star Charcutier Brendan McGill of Hitchcock Deli

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Brendan McGill:
Washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1994. I was 14 years old, working for four or five bucks an hour. $3.75/hour was the national minimum wage then, so I thought I was rich. I went from dish pit to prep cook and front of house, and then around the time I was 21, I realized this is what I would be doing for a living. I had a realization while I was working at a wedding in a hotel, that it was an honorable thing to do—participating in really important parts of people’s lives, and making their big day special.

In 1999, I moved to Walla Walla to work in wine country. I moved to seattle in 2001. My first job was at Queen City Grill, which was kinda of a legendary Belltown haunt. There was a lot of action there. It was one of those velvet rope type places. It was during the end of the dot com boom. I was working as a bus boy, then the door, as the smallest door man in Belltown. It was a good fit while I in culinary school at the art insitutue.

SK: What was the motivating idea behind Hitchcock, the restaurant which adjoins the deli?
BM: The idea for Hitchcock was and is to get close to food. I had intended to be this future-Spanish-chef guy, but then there was this desire and need to get into my local ingredients. In Bainbridge, we were able to work directly with all the farmers and create a destination restaurant where you can eat food from a very specific place. It changed the way I cooked entirely. We’re a neighborhood restaurant and destination. It’s accessible, and we aim to cater to people on the inland who just want a nice meal. On the other hand, we can turn it around and do deluxe chef tastings for Steven Spielberg or Tom Douglas.

SK: Do you have had a mentor?
I think my first break as a chef was getting the opportunity to work with Chef Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez. I could push out food, but there I learned to refinement.

SK: Tell us a little about the Smart Catch program you're involed with?
Smart Catch is a seafood sustainability program, and I was one of the charter particpants. Paul Allen from Microsoft founded it, and it's expanding across the country. You have to open your books and they audit your seafood sourcing. It's like an LEED program for Seafood.

SK: What’s the five year plan?
Lately, I’m really in love with actually cooking food in the restaurant. I find myself torn between making Hitchcock more and more special, or expanding and going for the big humdinger. When I received the James Beard Award nomination in 2014, I decided to double-down on Hitchcock and make it as best as it could be. I’d like do an oyster and charcuterie bar somewhere, sometime. Mainly, I’m focusing on the idea that responsible sustainable, local food shouldn’t be just for tasting menus. You should be able to have it for a 12 dollar lunch. 

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