SOBEWFF 2014 Q&A with Ethan Stowell and Joe Ritchie

All photography appearing in this post taken by Holli Lapes
(click on the photo to view it in a larger format)

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) is something that I have always wanted to take part in.
Any foodie living in South Florida should experience it at least once.
It is a costly experience, though, and I chose to get a behind the scenes look by working at the festival.

This post highlights two awesome chefs that I got to work with at the SOBEWFF 2014 Best of the Best event that took place on February 21st 2014 at Miami’s well known Fontainebleau Hotel. Ethan Stowell is a chef and owner of the Ethan Stowell Restaurant’s and Joe Ritchie is the chef at ESR’s Mkt.

A week or so before the event I was given my assignment and when I found out I would be working with chefs from Seattle I was pretty stoked. Seattle is somewhere I have always wanted to visit, and even though I have never been there, I have even considered moving there. My educational background is in Dietetics and Nutrition. I want to further my knowledge in functional medicine and holistic nutrition and I am considering Bastyr University in Washington as a way to meet this goal.

Hours before the event, Ethan, Joe and myself started to prepare the dish for the event: Dungeness Crab & Endive Salad.

Firstly, I peeled all the exterior leaves off the red & yellow endive then Chef Joe chopped them up. Its kinda crazy that 1/4 of the endive gets wasted because they are so small and so expensive.

I envisioned the crab being scooped into intact endive leaves which would serve as the vehicle to the mouth. Joe said he wanted the people to actually eat the endive and that is part of the reason it is more of a salad dish. As a nutritionist I liked the sound of that, and besides, what I had envisioned was rather cliché.


My next task was rather tedious, but, someone’s gotta do it. I spent quite a while removing tarragon leaves off the stem of the herb. Meanwhile, Ethan and Joe prepared the citrus. We were chatting about Miami during prep and I couldn’t help but put my two cents in about where to go in Miami. Joe was telling me they had been looking for a good beer spot the night before and so I recommended Lou’s Beer Garden. 





Ethan was wondering why we were using California oranges instead of Florida oranges. I figured that it was probably because Florida oranges are usually used for juicing.

Fast Forward to the event:


We’re ready! Here’s Ethan Stowell (left) and Joe Ritchie (Right)

ethan and joe

During the event, Joe would mix the ingredients in a bowl, Ethan would plate the salad and I would garnish with, citron, micro celery greens and dressing. The event kicked into high gear and we were mixing, plating and garnishing as fast as we could! Ethan’s wife was there to help too.

Joe had explained to me during prep that he had pickled the citron just for this event.
It is also known as Buddha’s hand, its pretty funky looking, check it out:

Here is the salad mixture:

salad mix

The finished masterpiece:
plated salad

If there is one thing I learned from working at The South Beach Wine and Food Festival it is that there is so much work that goes into a single plate of food. Based on the craftsmen-ship that I saw from Ethan and Joe, I would undoubtedly check out as many Ethan Stowell Restaurants as I could when I finally make it out to Seattle. The individual attention that went into each ingredient in is this seemingly simple salad dish really puts emphasis on the word art in culinary art.

I followed up with Ethan and Joe recently for a Q&A

Sage: What was your favorite part of SOBEWFF 2014?
Ethan: Best part of SOBEWFF is getting out of town and either meeting new people or seeing old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. The cooking is great but the connecting with friends in the industry thing is really the best part for me.
Joe: The best part of SOBEWFF was getting an opportunity to meet some great chefs and industry professionals from all over the country and world. It also didn’t hurt that it was 85 degrees in Miami vs 50 degrees and raining in Seattle.

Sage: What do you wish you saw more of in Miami?
Ethan: Wish I saw more beach. I’m from Seattle so I need as much help as I can get with the tan thing. I didn’t get enough sun, next year we’ll spend an extra day or two.
Joe: I wish I would have spent more time on the beach in Miami. I also really wanted to get a chance to eat at a Cuban restaurant. Next time I’m gonna plan a little better.

Sage: How have your previous experiences prepared you for your newest restaurant Red Cow?
Ethan: Any experience is a help when opening a new business, whether it’s building and designing the physical space. Or knowing where to buy kitchen equipment, plates and glassware. Or it’s writing and pricing a menu that you know customers will like. Tons of stuff goes into a business and just like everything else, the more mistakes you’ve made in the past the less you need to make in the future.

Sage: Any chance that Ethan Stowell Restaurants will branch out and open locations outside Seattle?
Ethan: The short answer is yes, the long one is we don’t know when or what city we will pick. Might be something close like Bellevue, WA or Portland, OR. But I’ve always wanted to have a restaurant in San Francisco. Just don’t know when.

Sage: Joe, during the SOBEWFF Best of the Best event at the Fontainebleau, you said something along the lines of:
Cooking styles are an influence of ones knowledge base, travel experiences, culture etc. Can you please expand on this?
Joe: What I was saying is that as a chef your cooking style is essentially a confluence of your life’s experiences. Meaning that all of the food memories from childhood, cultural or religious significance, traveling experiences, work experiences, etc are combined with ones personal creativity to become your relatively unique style. That’s why I think it’s so important for cooks and chefs to travel, to dine out frequently and to pull from their cultural and regional history.


2 thoughts on “SOBEWFF 2014 Q&A with Ethan Stowell and Joe Ritchie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s