mike's kitchen {crafted by the seasons}


Upon arriving on Washington Island I was greeted by friendship and a familiarity of welcomed sights beheld only six months earlier. Quickly I found myself in my kitchen and again I was met with the familiar; with the sort of comfort that transforms a house into a home. Although it is only my second year in this place it has become part of who I am. And as I am shaped by it, I too shape it.

The restaurant's opening day fast approaching and I feel comforted by this place and eager for dining service to begin. With little wasted time conversations about plant seeds and harvest schedules become routine. The hotel's garden is one of the many prides of my kitchen. Sitting at just under two acres it is diverse enough to meet the vast majority of our produce needs. To state that our garden team is proficient and motivated, would sell them short. The quality of their produce speaks for itself.  The countless hours they work are fuel for the passion that is embodied in the restaurant.  Other local providers are contacted as well,  it is the bringing together of a supply of products with striking character.

I am humbled by the sourcing of our food, in the restaurant I am involved in this on a very personal level. The land is turned, a seed is planted, it grows; a plant is harvested, delivered, cleaned, prepared, ordered, and served.  Every carrot, and every piece of parsley lived this cycle for months or weeks. It took diligence and respect to achieve this. This reverberates in my bones. Every cut of beef to every portion of chicken had parents.  Then they were slaughtered, and partitioned into New York strip steaks, chicken tenders, or pork chops. This is nothing new, but the understanding of the events and routines has become disconnected from what one may consider a typical dining experience. The last time you ate a meal, did you consider how old the vegetable was when it was pulled from the earth? Did you ponder the hands that pulled it?

A round white dinner plate is a canvas holding unlimited potential. It can be painted in any countless number of flavors, textures, aromas, and colors. This is how I look at a plate; considering the developing dynamics waiting to be unleashed. I often find myself thinking about the process that leads these items to me.  As chef I am tasked with skillfully preparing plates that please the senses. Cast a known item into a new light. The volume of creative expression is endless. Kitchen days are long, but it is a labor of love and expression. I find my work fulfilling and satisfying. With that said, my work is only a piece to a puzzle that must come together for a dinner service to run smoothly; from growing seeds and livestock nursing; to clean plates and artful presentations. It all has to come together. The goal of this, the culmination of this, is to present a lovely dinner to you: my guest.

Consider this an invitation. The next time a meal is presented; contemplate. Where did it come from? From what land was it pulled? From what region did it walk? Who crafted it into what it is now? How did you come to be sitting before it? It is an impressively vast story. Involving continuous effort, communication, expression, and devotion. Containing many more characters than one may think.  It is nothing short of amazing that so many hands can come together to produce something so intriguing and exciting. 


{Mike Hofmann is chef at Hotel Washington and Studio on Washington Island in Door County Wisconsin}

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