Connecting with the Chefs Behind Conversation
Conversation, the new dining concept at Thompson Seattle, places a lot of importance on connecting people. Naturally, we wanted to connect with the chefs at the center of this project. Chef Derek Simcik, who’s been featured on top chef lists by Zagat and The Seattle Times, travelled extensively as a child and brings this international influence to his cuisine. Chef Kate Sigel’s French pastry expertise is inflected by her background in design. They talk us through their culinary influences, from close family to molecular gastronomists, and share what’s in their fridge at home.
What are your favorite local ingredients to work with?
DS: When in season, oysters. And a lot of people don’t realize how great the local lamb is around here. I love using more obscure stuff like Saskatoon berries and wild cress, and of course chanterelles are my favorite mushroom around here.
KS: The produce is amazing here in Seattle. Spring and summer are when all the PNW’s coolest produce is available, so I’m working with a lot of fruit and locally grown tomatoes. I love finding interesting ingredients from Pike Place Market, just a block away from Thompson Seattle.
How would you describe the food you serve at Conversation?
DS: Modern, internationally-influenced cuisine. Definitely has a part of me in it.
KS: Nostalgic. I always incorporate a strong nostalgic element… taking something familiar or that has a childhood memory attached and turning it on its head into something unexpected.
Who has been the biggest influence on your cooking?
DS: My mother and my grandmother.
KS: Chefs Wylie DuFresne and Jordi Roca have been a big inspiration to me, because I love that their stuff is fun and whimsical but beautiful and technical at the same time.
What would people be most surprised to find in your fridge at home?
DS: Not sure if people would be surprised. If you know me it would be expected, but I have lots of hot sauce and lots of wine!
KS: They may be surprised to find that my fridge is empty! Mostly just condiments and fancy milks and creamers I can put in coffee. I’m barely home these days!
What exciting things are on the agenda at Conversation?
DS: We’ll be holding a Greek dinner party with local Guest Chef Zoi Antonitsas on August 31st in our outdoor Courtyard. It’s going to be a party!
KS: I’m currently working on new menu items like a tomato dessert, a whole dessert centered around different flavors and formats of milk, and some sort of popsicle incorporating fall flavors.