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Paellaworks: Dish it out

Oct 3rd, 2013 | Category: Food

Imagine a large pan. It’s wide and shallow, and layered with flavors like garlic, sweet onions and tomato. Rice is added, simmering in handmade citrus saffron stock. Fresh vegetables and assorted seafood are topped next, creating a beautiful mixed dish of flavors and textures. Welcome to paella.

Knut Christiansen is passionate about his paella. Owner of Paellaworks, based in Glacier, he takes his love of cooking across the northwest, doing events, classes and even private birthday parties. Here’s what he had to say about his work.

When did you first make paella, what was in it, and what inspired you?

The first paella were made in 2004, and were Paella Mixta, so it was a combination of seafood and meat(s). I was working with a local catering company, and were approached by a local vintner to make paella. We all jumped at the chance to make this historic food!

How did Paellworks come to be in 2005 and how has it grown since?

I had been looking for a way to start my own business, utilize local farmed goods, and wild products, and get out of the commercial food system as much as possible. I had been working at a local brewery, and we bought farm shares for specials, et cetera and I had my eyes opened to how far commercial food systems and local food products differed. As far as growth, Paellaworks also offers pop up oyster bars, using local oysters, Tapas, King salmon with local berries and honey and bulk soup specials for the Mount Baker Ski Area. We roast an occasional whole pig as well.

Can you tell us about the various paellas that you make? To someone standing by watching you cook it’s sure a beautiful and mouth-watering process.

We make custom paella, which means you can pick and choose between a large variety of ingredients, whether it be braised chicken or rockfish, to items a bit more exotic like game, Pacific scallops, wild birds, or smoked prawn, and the like. We work with the client to come up with paella that fits there tastes and preferences. We also offer Paella Mixta, Paella Verduras, Paella Mariscos and Paella Negre.

Who are some of the local farmers and food producers you buy from or work with?

I work with Vis Seafoods and Taylor Shellfish for my principle seafood needs, and I source my vegetables from a wonderful array of local farms like Rabbit Fields, Joe’s Garden, K&M Farms and Sumas Mountain Farms, to name a few. I also utilize Goods Nursery and Produce as well as our own community co-op. I use meat products from Hemplers and Carne, as well as Claus Meats. I also use imported European ingredients like saffron, olive oil, Valencian rice and dried spices from PFI and The Spanish Table in Seattle, as well as Old World Deli and Mediterranean Specialties in Bellingham.The Breadfarm in Edison supplies our baguette and other baked good needs.

What are your favorite seasonal ingredients to work with?

Beautiful local vegetables and seafood.

As a mobile operation, where are some of the places you’ve served in the northwest, and beyond?

We work all around Western Washington, the urban zones, the islands, lots of remote spots where there is no electricity. I think I have made paella in Alaska too.

You’ve placed at the Paella Lovers United Competition 2010 in Austin, Texas, served snowboarders at the Legendary Banked Slalom at Mount Baker, and recently fed about 200 firemen at the annual Burning Man event in Nevada. What are those experiences like?

You really get to realize how many wonderful people are out there, who really care about their communities, friends and families and what they are passionate about. It can be almost overwhelming in a great way!

Do you have any events coming up?

Paellaworks will be at Old World Deli on Oct. 11, and I am teaching a steamer class at Gretchen’s on Oct. 3. You can go to the events tab on our web page to see upcoming events.

When you meet folks who are not familiar with paella, what are their reactions upon tasting it?

People think it is different! Usually most folks think paella is Hispanic in nature, and don’t have much knowledge of Spanish cuisine, and typically have not tasted saffron.

What’s a usual Sunday breakfast for you?

I am a  poached eggs and bacon on toast man.

Where do you like to go when you eat out?

Milano’s in Glacier on the deck with a seafood linguini and wine is still the tops.

Have you tried to cook something and utterly failed at it? What was it?

I have messed so much food up I could not list it all here! Recently I ruined a perfectly good miso soup.

For more information about Paellaworks, see paellaworks.com or follow their Facebook page.

Published in the October 2013 issue of Grow Northwest

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