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Seattle Chef Matt Dillon’s Cookhouse at Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island

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Seattle Chef Matt Dillon’s Cookhouse at Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island

November 27, 2017

Over the years we’ve featured several of Seattle chef Matt Dillon’s restaurants, including the much lauded Sitka & Spruce and the Corson Building. Dillon, who is currently at the helm of five Seattle restaurants, still cooks almost nightly at Bar Ferdinand, his wine bar in Capitol Hill, so we were surprised to learn that he also takes a very hands-on role in running the estate that supplies the restaurant, called Old Chaser Farm, on Vashon Island where he lives full-time (a 30-minute ferry ride across the Puget Sound).

Today we’re featuring the Farm on Gardenista, and on Remodelista we share the property’s all-purpose building, dubbed “The Cookhouse”—a simple, stylish space used for everything from wedding receptions to canning plums. Let’s take a closer look.

Photography by Aaron Leitz for Remodelista.

Practicality reigns in the kitchen, with a woodstove, a subway tile backsplash, and a large butcher block countertop on the kitchen island.
Above: Practicality reigns in the kitchen, with a woodstove, a subway tile backsplash, and a large butcher block countertop on the kitchen island.
The kitchen island has beadboard paneling and generous storage space within. The stainless steel prep sink on the back wall was custom-made. On the right of the island is a recessed, white marble work surface.
Above: The kitchen island has beadboard paneling and generous storage space within. The stainless steel prep sink on the back wall was custom-made. On the right of the island is a recessed, white marble work surface.
A trestle table in the cookhouse holds pewter cups, porcelain bowls, and farmhouse crocks at the ready for events.
Above: A trestle table in the cookhouse holds pewter cups, porcelain bowls, and farmhouse crocks at the ready for events.

Dillon bought Old Chaser Farm in 2010 when, after some initial letdowns searching for a property on Vashon, he found an organic “U-Pick” blueberry farm for sale in a real estate listing.

Dillon has a strong eye for design, and overhauled the cookhouse with his friend Edward Pierce of Plumb Level Square, who staged in the kitchen at the Corson Building before going into construction. When he bought the property, says Dillon, the cookhouse “was an ugly concrete-floored garage with a bathroom and a big closet.”

Wines and wine glasses mingle with spirits, vinegars, and pickled vegetables on the cookhouse&#8
Above: Wines and wine glasses mingle with spirits, vinegars, and pickled vegetables on the cookhouse’s main storage wall.

Though the building is called the “cookhouse,” it’s a multifaceted space, hosting events from Dillon’s wedding celebration to an REI corporate retreat to impromptu football viewing parties for staff. These walls also see what goes into running a successful restaurant empire: pop-up dinners to raise money, cookbook release parties for fellows chefs (such as Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken in Sweden), and long days washing eggs, canning fruit, and packing CSA boxes. The space is even used to process the farm’s chickens and ducks after slaughter.

A pantry shelf behind the sink holds dried herbs, spices, grains, nuts, and even house-made sauerkraut.
Above: A pantry shelf behind the sink holds dried herbs, spices, grains, nuts, and even house-made sauerkraut.

Dillon spends his mornings on the farm and evenings cooking at Bar Ferdinand, his wine bar serving a quiet menu of cured meats, cheeses, pickled vegetables, and simple mains. For being a local celebrity in the era of the star chef, Dillon does a remarkable amount of the farm work himself: “My job in the cookhouse within the next two weeks is to install our walk-in fridge,” he told me one weekday in October.

Understated bathroom finishes include a subway tile surround for the black clawfoot tub and translucent burlap curtains.
Above: Understated bathroom finishes include a subway tile surround for the black clawfoot tub and translucent burlap curtains.

Dillon collaborates closely with friends, including woodworker Steven Withycombe who made the custom barn doors shown here. &#8
Above: Dillon collaborates closely with friends, including woodworker Steven Withycombe who made the custom barn doors shown here. “I try to keep it all in the family,” says Dillon. “I have ideas, then get [friends] to give me input and take creative liberties with them.”
Dillon actually lived in the cookhouse for the first three years he owned the farm. “I had all my stuff in there; I’d clear it out for an event, then move it all back in the next day.”

Dillon&#8
Above: Dillon’s wife, Brita Fisher, is a floral designer who “uses stuff from the natural world to make beautiful things.” She uses the cookhouse on occasion to hold her creations.
&#8
Above: “Most of the decor is just dried stuff from the farm,” says Dillon. When we chatted in October, the space was filled with pumpkins just starting to cure and lemon verbena hanging to dry.
String lights hang at the ready for parties.
Above: String lights hang at the ready for parties.

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