Sunday, March 7, 2021
Chef Naomi Everett is Wild on Gastronomy
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Chef Naomi Everett says she loves duck. “But I’ve got a tender heart so I don’t hunt it.”
   
Monday, January 18, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

The freezer that Chef Naomi Everett draws from is more apt to feature wild salmon, halibut, moose and caribou than hamburger or poultry. And the vegetables she uses may easily be canned since fresh produce is hard to come by in Alaska.

Everett hasn’t let the sometimes-limited food choices in her native Alaska stop her when it comes to introducing the wonders of cooking to the world.

She’s currently serving her second stint as guest chef with the Sun Valley Culinary Institute, introducing food enthusiasts to the possibilities of beef and pork, as well as vegetable dishes that even kids will love. She’s also offering a class on Classic Italian Cuisine, which happens to be her personal favorite, and an Asian Cuisine Series, that explores Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai delicacies.

“I love flavor and texture and what it takes to put an attractive plate together,” she said. “I love it when each item on a plate tastes great but, when eaten together, they taste even greater.”

The oldest of six children, Everett grew up turning caribou into sausage and nudging filet mignon and stews out of the moose that the hunters in their Baptist church shared.

She initially pursued a career in the makeup department at Nordstrom’s. But, inspired by the large family dinners they cooked every week, she and her sister had the “grandiose idea” to open a restaurant.

Everett pursued a degree from the University of Alaska-Anchorage culinary arts program. Then, she spent a year in New Orleans and more time in New Mexico, where she fell in love with Mexican food. She also spent three months in Italy.

“That’s where I ate the very first tomato that taught me what a tomato should taste like,” she said, noting that she had grown up on canned tomatoes. “It was during a weekend in Greece when I had tomatoes with feta cheese and it blew my mind it was so rich and flavorful.

“That trip also introduced me to so many other authentic tastes—from the bread maker who made the bread he sold to the cheese maker who made the cheese he sold in his shop. It was another slot in my file of the experience of cuisine.”

As her skills and knowledge of gastronomy expanded, Marx Bros Café—one of the best restaurants in Alaska—called upon her.

“I was ready to come home. I missed my family I missed my mountains. And Marx Bros was perfect—it’s a super tiny house—one of the oldest homes in Anchorage, a landmark on the bay of Anchorage with a walk-in cooler outside in the shed. We had 14 tables and we also catered wedding receptions, events at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art…”

She and her sister never did open their own restaurant. Everett worked for Marx Bros for five years, then served as executive chef at Settlers Bay Lodge on Knik Goose Bay Road in Wasilla.

In 2006 she bested other Alaskan chefs to represent Alaska at the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans where she placed sixth with a dish called halibut salmon roulade with brie cheese.

It was like sushi, she said, in that you roll the cheese up in the fish, then slice it to see all the layers inside. She then returned to the Cook-off, placing in the top four with a seared halibut recipe.

When a mentor at the University of Alaska asked if she would teach culinary classes 13 years ago, she jumped at the opportunity to become assistant professor of Culinary Arts.

“I want to break down the barriers, the mystery, of cooking,” she said. “For instance, people think you have to cook the living daylights out of pork because of trichinosis. But you don’t—they’ve bred trichinosis out of the animals.”

Everett likes to show people how to get more out of their vegetables. For instance, she’s fond of showing people how to cut broccoli stalks into tiny pieces, then steaming them, so people don’t throw away half the money they spent on fresh broccoli.

She teaches people to cook canned beans and other vegetables in the juices they come in, just bringing it to temperature, to preserve as much nutrition as possible. And she teaches how easy it is to make vegetable stock.

“I keep vegetable scraps in a container in my refrigerator. Cook in a little water, throw in pieces of   rotisserie chicken from Costco and you have a great soup.”

Everett said she hopes to introduce people to products they may never have used before in her upcoming Asian series. At the same time, she will show how quickly people can make tasty Asian dishes since the bulk of the time is spent chopping vegetables.

Everett loves her periodic sojourns in Sun Valley.

“I like the environment,” she said. “The community feels very tight knit, and I’ve met a lot of nice people who feel very genuine. I like that I can get around on the bus. I like the snow ad the mountains, the cross-country skiing. And people here love learning about food and cooking.”

To see the Sun Valley Culinary Institute’s upcoming menu of cooking classes, go to https://sunvalleyculinary.org

 

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