Since 2009 I have been creating recipes for Cafe Nordo, Seattle’s homegrown “enfante terible” of dinner theater. I have hundreds of them, ranging from simple, cozy dishes plated in surprising ways, to wildly complicated pieces of edible art. Some need the context of the shows they were created for, but many are able to stand on their own, and it seems like a shame to relegate them to the memories of the couple of thousand or so people who tasted the recipe’s stage debut.
As we built Nordo shows we always said the food was the diva. She showed up at the last minute after weeks of rehearsal and completely upended everyone’s hard work with her needs…”It must be hotter! No colder! No faster! No slower! Do it while singing! With liquid nitrogen!” Now it is time for the diva to take center stage. As Nordo’s performances are on hiatus while we re-imagine what this creation of ours is meant to become, it seems the perfect time to revisit the catalogue of recipes, try to recreate the ones that I only have the notes of my memory to rely on, and share the process here. New recipes will arrive too, inspired by the seasons and whims of…well…me. The non-fictional chef of Nordo.
Why Thank Salt? Our first show, The Modern American Chicken, began with a prayer, an invocation to Earth’s most precious mineral, the Earth God of flavor, thanking it for its ability to tenderize, preserve, and magnify deliciousness. (Particularly that of Henrietta the Chicken, brined to perfection before being roasted.) It went like this:
And now a grace to begin the evening. Please do not bow your head or fold your hands. There is no shame here.
We thank you, Salt, for making this Henrietta we are about to share,
So tender and moist. Blessed is free glutamate
For illuminating our parmesan with umami We thank thee, Marquis Louis de Bechameil,
Not for creating the delicious sauce we are about to receive, but
For being rich, a gourmet, an informed art lover, and a handsome man.
We thank those who have come before Nordo in the field of Gastronomy,
Though not all are worthy, and pray
For blessings for all that come after, may they
Heed our word. Nordo.
We wove the story of salt into the tale of our chicken, and ever since Thank Salt has been a sweet mantra of ours to remind us where we started.
In this space I intend to showcase the fun of developing dishes through a theatrical lens. It has been my greatest pleasure for the last 14 years.