Café Campagne, a French restaurant in Pike Place Market, has been serving traditional cuisine for more than 25 years – most of that time under the leadership of Chef Daisley Gordon.
Chef Gordon was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States as a child. After a stint in corporate life didn’t quite pan out, he began to question what it was he truly wanted to do. Soon after, Gordon attended the Culinary Institute of America – then set his sights on the Pacific Northwest. He had been trained in the French tradition and the then newly opened Café Campagne was a natural fit. In the span of only five years, he became executive chef and owner, an accelerated ascension that he had not predicted. Since then, he has continued to make a name for himself, even competing on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef.”
From croques monsieurs to quiche to croissants, Chef Gordon aims to make rustic-inspired, delectable foods. French cuisine’s robust ingredients and the various cultural influences of its diverse regions, bordering countries and former colonies offer what Chef Gordon calls a “huge palette of flavors and ideas to play with.” French natives who visit remark that the restaurant reminds them of home, a high compliment and surely a testament to the authenticity in both the aesthetic and handcrafted fare.
Chef Gordon feels that introducing kids to other cultures’ foods is a net positive. With French dining in particular, the cultural practice is generally slower as people take time to savor the taste, smell and texture and to think more about what they eat. Exposure to this cuisine can also offer health benefits, such as less junk food being consumed.
In the past, he has offered a cooking class for kids with fun activities like making ratatouille and preparing sausages. For any young people who may have aspirations of chefdom, he advises that kids try a lot of different foods and find what cooking they connect with, and then perhaps seek a job or a stage (apprenticeship) in an establishment. Beyond that, get a mentor if possible: “Don’t duplicate them; absorb them,” Chef Gordon advises. If you are willing to work hard and learn, he offers, “People will unlock their secrets.”
From annual trips to the South of France to hosting an event with author and mogul Mireille Guiliano, Chef Gordon’s life may sound like one of enviable glamor, but being a small business owner – especially during these times – is also hard work.
He views cooking not as an art, but as a craft – and one that requires effort and dedication, and doing things time and time again before achieving mastery. “Nothing beats repetition,” he says. “It hones your skills.”
Chef Gordon’s easy but elegant cheese puffs
Although the coronavirus pandemic has made a lot of family fun inaccessible, baking together at home is something you can still enjoy. Check out Chef Gordon’s simplified recipe for gougères (cheese puffs), written especially for Seattle’s Child.
Comté-and-thyme gougères for Seattle’s Child
Makes approximately 25 pieces; conversions from metric shown in brackets
80 grams butter [slightly more than 5½ tablespoons]
1 cup water
5 grams salt [1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch]
15 grams sugar [1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon]
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon parsley
150 grams all-purpose flour [1 cup plus 2½ tablespoons]
165 grams grated Comté cheese [about 1⅓ cups]
Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan; add water, salt, sugar, thyme and parsley, then bring entire mixture to a boil.
Add all the flour at once and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until all flour is incorporated and the mixture pulls away from the side of the saucepan.
Off the heat, add the eggs one at a time and beat in with the wooden paddle. Make sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.
Add the grated Comté cheese.
You may also use a stand mixer to combine the batter, eggs and cheese.
Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
Pipe 1¼-inch-diameter discs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. You may also use spoons, scooping a little of the batter on one spoon, and using the second spoon to scoop it off. (At this point, you may place the gougères in the freezer, if desired. Once they are firm, freeze them in a plastic freezer bag and they will keep for several months. They can then be baked in this frozen state. Simply follow the baking procedure and allow a little extra time.)
Place in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Watch the gougères as they puff up like a balloon and turn light golden brown. Reduce heat to 325° and continue to bake until the exterior is deep golden and the inside is cooked through. You will have to sample a couple to check their doneness. Check closely, as the inside may be soft from cheese, and not just undercooked dough.
This story was first published in September 2020.