Last Wednesday, Dave Sanford stopped by the Columbia City farmer’s market, picked up the first fava beans and summer squash of the season, and took them home to cook for dinner.
It was “just a plate of those awesome veggies, what I found from my local farmer,” Dave says.
That’s Dave’s kitchen philosophy: Start with quality, fresh, seasonal ingredients, “and do what I can not to mess them up,” he says. “I want to honor that ingredient and all that work that’s gone into it.”
Dave, who turns 28 this month, has always been into food. Growing up on Mercer Island, “I was a chubby little kid, [I] loved to eat,” he says.
Food turned into a passion as he went through high school, and he cooked in his spare time while attending Stanford University. He worked in the tech industry in Silicon Valley, but at the same time would do grunt work in the kitchen of restaurants down there, oftentimes for no more than a meal at the end of the night.
He also did this with a roving restaurant called Outstanding in the Field, which operates around the country on farms or in caves, picks the food from the field, and then prepares it for diners who sit at long communal tables. You’ll start to see a familiar theme here.
When he returned to Seattle four years ago, he began working with chef Matt Dillon, best known for his restaurants Sitka & Spruce and The Corson Building. Dave spent two years as program director at The Corson Building, an old, refurbished, high-ceilinged building with grand chandeliers and, again, those long communal tables.
Sometime this fall, Dave will be opening his own restaurant in what has quickly become one of Seattle’s foodie centers of the universe: Ballard. While he hasn’t announced the name or started talking specific details, he has a pretty good idea of what he wants it to look like: “When I moved back to Seattle I started a meal series: All family-style meals. It started in my loft with Sunday brunch and branched out to dinners,” he says.
He expanded to holding the meals on farms, in parks, on beaches, at other people’s homes. “The whole idea was not to make money necessarily, but to start bringing people together,” Dave says. “That’s been an unintentional prototype for the restaurant.”
The vision for this new place is his own, but he is working with local design-and-build firm Dovetail to make that vision a reality — right down to the long tables where his guests will eat.
“I’ve already salvaged some materials from other buildings and sites around the city,” he says.
While he says he’s not motivated by specific religious institutions, he does get some inspiration from Judaism’s focus on food.
“One of the best things about our food tradition is it’s often a facilitator of bringing friends and family and community together,” he says.
That is something that’s always in season.