Marinated in flavor: 5 fab recipes featuring fermented foods

Chef Duskie Estes’ culinary passions were ignited immediately after receiving an Easy Bake Oven when she was five years old. “I made my grandfather’s birthday cake in that oven and have a photo of the moment I presented it,” she remembers. “He was so proud, and I was overjoyed I could do something that made him happy,” says Estes, whose love of food is intrinsic to everything she does. “Sharing food is about a generosity of spirit that I thrive on.”

Estes went on to study pre-med as an undergraduate at Brown University. While a student, she landed her first restaurant job and, in her words, “Fell in love with the adrenaline of a busy dinner service.”

<p>Duskie Estes and John Stewart</p>

Working her way up from line chef to two-time constant on the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef and judge for Guy’s Grocery Games has earned Estes a reputation as a true contender. Her experience includes helming the Palace Kitchen in Seattle, where she was voted City Search’s “Seattle’s Best Chef in 2000.” She co-authored Tom Douglas’s Seattle Kitchen, a 2001 James Beard Award winner for Best American Cookbook. And, more recently, Estes and her chef husband, John Stewart, ran ZAZU kitchen + farm, a San Francisco Bay area mainstay from 2001 through 2019. (After severe Russian River floods damaged ZAZU, the couple was forced to shutter its doors.)

Today, Stewart and Estes run Black Pig Meat Company, and their skills earned them the title of “King and Queen of Pork” at the Grand Cochon at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic in 2011.

Fantastic, fermented food dishes

“I’m a big fan of cooking with so many fermented foods,” says Estes. “Yogurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut, kimchi, hard cider, miso, ricotta and wine — you may not know that these are all fermented ingredients.”

The farm-to-table tradition and connection with community are equally big parts of everything Estes does. As executive director of Farm to Pantry, she helps the Sonoma-based organization rescue food that would otherwise go to waste and distribute it to people in need. It’s a mission that’s close to her heart. 

“I like to know the face that feeds you,” says Estes of her connections to the community. For that reason, Estes recommends sourcing the produce and meats included in her recipes from local producers. “Your money is your power to make a difference in someone’s life. Shop the farmer’s market when you can, and support your local artisans and makers!”