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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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