Behind the Burners: Get to Know the Kitchen Team
May 17, 2016
Behind the Burners: Get to Know the Kitchen Team

Behind every great chef stands a great kitchen team. While Chef Varin Keokitvon may be Heartwood’s inventive culinary force, no lamb Carpaccio or roasted cauliflower pasta would be possible without his sous chefs. We wanted to get to know the people who have Chef’s back, so we sat them down for a Q&A. Meet Sous Chefs Kim Cosway and Justin Congdon.


Kim Cosway kitchen teamSOUS CHEF KIM COSWAY

How did you leave sports and end up in the kitchen?
It actually happened by accident. When I was in high school I was an athlete—I played volleyball year round—but my junior year I had some extra credit space, so I took a creative cooking class. The following semester I signed up for the culinary class. The rest is history: I gave up my volleyball dreams my senior year and went running towards culinary school.

What about food inspires you?
I think most chefs would say “local seasonal ingredients,” which are truly inspiring. But, what really inspires me—what makes me get up every day excited to go to work and cook amazing food—is the way it brings people together. It brings together line cooks who would normally not talk to one another if they passed on the street. It brings together families celebrating a special occasion. It can even be the highlight of a first date that turns into something more.

No matter where you’re from, or what language you speak, like everyone else in the world, you enjoy a great meal. Food has no borders or barriers, and that is powerful and inspiring.

What is your favorite kitchen tool?
Hands down the blender. There is nothing more satisfying then a perfect purée or an awesome emulsification.

When you’re not in the Heartwood kitchen, where in Seattle can we find you eating?
Two of my favorite places are Spuds, on Alki, and Pho Bac. On a nice spring day I love to go get fish and chips and sit on the beach wall and fight off the seagulls! As for Pho Bac, that’s also a place I frequent, but I go to the one at Rainier and Byron, not the flagship location.


Justin Congdon kitchen teamSOUS CHEF JUSTIN CONGDON

How did you get into cooking?
To be honest I didn’t have a lot of focus when I was younger. High school treated me well, but nothing appealed to me, and the closer I got to graduation the more of an issue that became. I had an advisor who took a lot of interest in me and recommended the vocational program because I was creative and wanted to work with my hands. I started off with engine mechanics and metal fabrication (I wanted to design and hand craft motorcycles) but once that proved to be more of a hobby than a career, I turned my attention to cooking.

From the moment I walked into that student kitchen I just immersed myself in the cooking world and haven’t looked back. I knew I wanted to do something great for people and put myself out there, and this was the way to do it.

What inspires you about food?
My inspiration comes as I’m working with an ingredient. I know a lot of great cooks who plan the entire dish in detail before it hits a plate, but that has never been me. I get really excited when I’m working with a product and it feels just-right in my hands, or when the taste and aroma take you somewhere. Anytime I get black trumpet mushrooms, I fill both hands and take in the deepest breath I can. Every time, it smells like foraging in the woods back home. The ideas tend to roll from there.

What is your favorite kitchen tool?
I’d be nowhere without my hands. At The Point Resort in upstate New York my first chef, Mark Levy, spent four years teaching me how to be a great cook, and part of that was learning to use, trust, and respect my hands … The way gnocchi should feel under your palms, the right squeeze on a medium-rare beef tenderloin, and knowing when to plate with a lighter touch, for example. Chef Levy would also joke around and throw Marco Pierre White’s quote out when you were wasting time being afraid of hot items: “God didn’t give you fingers to NOT burn them!”

When you’re not in the Heartwood kitchen, where in Seattle can we find you eating?
Honestly, I’m still pretty new here, so I don’t have my go-tos down yet. I moved from New York last November and most of my time off has been spent in the woods hiking, but I’ve hit some good spots for fried chicken, wood-fired pizza, and of course craft beer. I’m slowly getting to understand what Seattle is all about, but for a taste of home (I was born a couple hours from Buffalo, NY) I can be found at The Westy on 35th in West Seattle. That’s the best plate of true buffalo wings I’ve found so far!

Category: Team