Chef Melissa King – who was a finalist on Top Chef season 12, is headlining “A Culinary Journey” fundraiser Oct. 3 at The Westin Bellevue. The annual benefit gala will benefit the Asian Counseling and Referral Services is sold out – but there is a waitlist at firstname.lastname@example.org. We had a chance to chat with the star chef and find out more about her:
What do you always have in your kitchen?
I always have citrus, fresh herbs, ginger, shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) fish sauce, anchovies and chili flakes.
What is your first kitchen memory?
My first kitchen memory was learning how to make Chinese soups with my mom. They are bone-based broths with various herbs like ginseng, and goji berries, which require time to develop depth of flavor.
You have a degree in cognitive science. What led you to study that discipline?
My brain has always been scientifically inclined. I’ve also been fascinated by the deeper understanding of people and relationships. Cognitive science bridged the gap between these two areas of interest.
What precipitated the change from the behavioral sciences to the culinary arts?
Cooking was my first love, but my parents stressed the importance of earning a degree before pursuing culinary school. I loved studying behavior sciences but the second I graduated I knew exactly what my next step would be.
If you weren’t a chef what else would you likely be doing?
I learned real estate and investing from my parents, so those have always been areas of interest. But in all honesty, I’ve always admired farmers and the knowledge and effort it takes to do what they do. I dream about being a farmer and living off the land. The whole food system starts in the ground, and you can’t have good food without good farmers.
You were on the most recent season of Top Chef as one of the finalist. How do you feel about the last chance kitchen candidate coming back into the competition?
It’s definitely a curveball, but it’s how the game works!
You are coming to Bellevue for the Asian Counseling and Referral Services fundraiser. What does this organization mean to you?
The ACRS goals and missions really hit home for me. I think it’s great that they offer support for all different groups within the Asian American community, from encouraging people to explore their cultural background, to LGBT youth support, and to offering assistance to the non-English speaking elderly community. These all relate to my life in a real way, and I appreciate and admire their efforts. If you’re not familiar, you should learn more about them.
What are you reading now?
Some recent favorites are Faviken, Manresa, and A New Napa Cuisine. These cookbooks are full of technique and explore the emotions, struggles, and inspirations behind each chef’s culinary journey.
What is your favorite guilty food pleasure?
I generally eat very clean and healthy, but when I do indulge my go-to are Hot Cheetos and Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups.
What is the one food/ingredient you look forward to? And how do you prepare it?
I wait for fresh summer produce all year long. The fruits and vegetables in summer are so rich in flavor that they hardly need any embellishment. Nothing beats a perfectly ripe tomato with sea salt, or the sweetness of fresh grilled corn.