Accomplished and acclaimed, top celebrity chef and mixologist Kathy Casey is a true pioneer in the bar chef movement. As one of the first female executive chefs in the United States, she played a key role in bringing Northwest cuisine and women chefs to prominence, earning the honor early on of being named one of Food & Wine’s "hot new American chefs." Her career path forward has included multiple features on popular TV and radio programs, national publications and now her own cocktail show called Kathy Casey's Liquid Kitchen.
It's no wonder Urbanspoon tapped Kathy to be a contributor to their new "Urbanspoon Guides" series, which allow diners to create their own personal lists of favorite eateries while being able to catch a glimpse of lists that several celebrated chefs, including Kathy, have posted of their own. Kathy recently dished on the project with us.
How did you become involved with Urbanspoon?
I love Urbanspoon! I travel a lot and use it to find great suggestions wherever my adventures take me. It was an honor when the site asked me a couple of months ago to be a part of the "Urbanspoon Guides" project and share some of my top restaurants and bar picks.
What criteria define the perfect restaurant experience, in your eyes?
Of course the food has to be great, but ultimately the service and overall experience goes hand in hand with that. An extra smile and attention to detail in any dining experience makes it that much more enjoyable.
Fantastic cocktails and beverages are a plus too! And a great restaurant experience does not necessarily have to be an expensive one; it can be the best local hot dog, to-die-for Eggs Benedict, or appetizers and a hand-crafted cocktail...it’s all about the quality and the experience and if it is true to what it strives to be.
As a chef, what do you look for on a menu specifically when making a selection for a guide like this?
Whether it's a food or cocktail menu, I look for foods that play off seasonality and fresh, local goods. It doesn't matter if I'm eating close to home or trying out a new place in a fun city, I look to see what the restaurant's chef/bar's mixologist can do with what’s in season around them. I want to see that the foods and drinks can be diverse in application to the final bite/sip, as well as challenge my palate by trying something that the dish/drink’s creator thinks is tasty.
Naturally we know you feel about your hometown eats but what other cities in the US, or the world for that matter, do it up right, restaurant-wise?
Because I travel so much within a calendar year, I couldn't just pick my top restaurants for the hometown which are, by the way, delish! So I expanded my list to some of my favorite picks in the US. I cover not only my hometown of Seattle, but my love for Portland's diverse food and cocktail culture, some of my fave go-tos in Los Angeles, the rib-sticking cuisine of New Orleans (and favorite bars as well) and some recently discovered must-visits in Washington, D.C.! I’ve got a ton of traveling to do, so I hope to add to my list over the next year, as well.
Some hidden gems are perfect because they're exactly that — hidden. There's a fine line between wanting to divulge your picks and running the risk of a place becoming overrun. How do you balance that?
There will always be a fine balance in sharing your spot, whether it's a hidden gem or well-known location. Ultimately, I want to share all my fave places to go to because I want to show people why I love my picks so much, and to see these wonderful bars and restaurants grow and flourish.
Kathy Casey has been lauded as one of the 50 Best Twitter Chefs by the Guide to Culinary Schools, while her blog Dishing with Kathy Casey was included in Saveur's "Sites We Love." Kathy is a frontrunner in social media and when not dreaming up “the next big thing” she can be found foraging for wild mushrooms, shaking up cocktails with ingredients from her urban garden or Twittering way too much.