The Dish: Chef Tom Douglas

The Dish: Chef Tom Douglas

Tom Douglas is the man behind an empire of Seattle-area restaurants. Born in Delaware, Douglas only moved to Seattle as a young adult, and despite no formal training, became a driving force in defining the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. 

A few years after getting his first restaurant job, he opened Dahlia Lounge which soon became the epicenter of Seattle's local, sustainable and organic food movement. It won him the James Beard Award as best chef in the Northwest, just one of three James Beard awards to his credit. He went on to open another 17 restaurants and his own farm to supply them with fresh produce. 

Here are some of Douglas' signature recipes: 

Chop salad with corn, snap peas and bacon

Mustard vinaigrette ingredients

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice  

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

2 teaspoons minced garlic   

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil   

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Salad ingredients

½ pound sliced bacon

1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed, cut in half on a diagonal

1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)

½ head romaine

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch dice

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

½ medium red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice

½ cup radishes, thinly sliced 

½ cup scallions, thinly sliced

½ pint cherry tomatoes, stemmed, cut in half

1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thick strips

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Vinaigrette directions

1. Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and garlic in a bowl.  

2. Gradually whisk in the oil until emulsified.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store it for a few days, covered, in the refrigerator. 

Salad directions

1. Fry and chop the bacon early in the day and store it in the refrigerator.  Reheat it for a few minutes in a 400°F oven until warm.

2. Prepare all the vegetables several hours ahead and keep them covered and refrigerated. Chop the lettuce, slice the basil, and toss the salad at the last minute. 

3. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil and set up a bowl of ice water. Set a strainer filled with the snap peas into the saucepan and cook for a minute or two. Remove the snap peas and immediately plunge them into the bowl of ice water. 

4.  Put the corn in the strainer and put it into the saucepan of boiling water for a minute or two. Remove the corn and plunge it into the ice water with the peas. Drain the corn and peas and set aside. 

5. Chop the romaine leaves and place them in a large bowl. You should have about 4 cups chopped leaves. Add the peas, corn, cucumber, carrot, red pepper, radishes, scallions, tomatoes, and basil to the bowl, then toss with enough vinaigrette to coat everything lightly.

6. Add the Parmesan, toss again, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound the salad on a large platter and sprinkle the bacon over the top.  

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

Barbecued pork spice rub ingredients

1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugared

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder or chili powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste

Traditional American barbecue sauce ingredients (option #1)

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil   

½ cup minced onions 

½ teaspoon minced garlic 

1 2/3 cups canned whole tomatoes with their juice (14.5-ounce can) 

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeded 

¼ cup fresh orange juice 

¼ cup balsamic vinegar 

¼ cup ketchup 

3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 

1 teaspoon molasses 

¾ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground 

Hoisin barbecue sauce ingredients (option #2)

¾ cup hoisin sauce (one 8-ounce jar) 

¾ cup rice wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon Chinese fermented black beans 

1 teaspoon minced garlic 

¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes 

5 unpeeled fresh ginger coins, sliced ¼ inch thick   

2 star anise 

Grated zest from ½ orange  


1. Fire up your grill.

2. Remove the excess fat and membranes from the back of the ribs. If you plan to use the American barbecue sauce, pat the spice rub over both sides of the racks of ribs. If you're planning to use the hoisin barbecue sauce, just sprinkle the ribs generously with salt and pepper. 

3. Grill the ribs over direct medium heat, on ash-covered coals with the grill covered and the vents open, for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the heat of the fire, turning the racks halfway through the cooking time. 

4. You should be able to see the meat just begin to separate from the bone. Brush the ribs on both sides with your choice of barbecue sauce and continue grilling, turning frequently, for 4 to 5 more minutes to caramelize and glaze the sauce on the ribs. Watch the ribs carefully so the sauce doesn't burn.  

"Right on the Grill" Corn on the Cob 


6 fresh ears corn, shucked


1.  Fire up the grill. Grill the corn until done, about 8 minutes over medium heat, turning as necessary to brown evenly. Remove the corn from the grill.

Cornmeal shortcakes


2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

9 ½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1 large egg white, slightly beaten


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the cold butter until crumbly, like a coarse cornmeal. 

2. Pour in the cream and mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it out about ¾ inch thick. 

3. With a round cutter, cut the dough into shortcakes about 3 ½ inches in diameter. Place the shortcakes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet set in another backing sheet (This double-pan method slows the browning of the bottoms until the shortcakes are cooked through).

4. Slightly whisk the egg white in a small bowl. Brush each shortcake with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden and cook through, 15 to 20 minutes. 

Etta's pit-roasted salmon 


3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar  

2 tablespoons paprika 

2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper   

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme  


1. Fire up the grill.

2. To make the spice rub, combine the brown sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, and thyme in a small bowl. Coat both sides of the salmon fillets with all of the rub. Brush the grill and fish with oil. 

3. Grill over direct heat, covered, with the vents open. When the salmon is marked by the grill, flip the fish and finish cooking. I like our salmon medium-rare, which requires a total grilling time of around 10 minutes, depending on the heat of the grill. The sugar in the spice rub can burn easily, so watch it closely.