In the Kitchen: Sutra


By Megan Hill
Photo by Lara Ferroni

Colin Patterson told himself he’d never cook in a conventional restaurant again. After cooking in a number of restaurants, he felt guilty and angered at the waste and “non-yogic actions” of most restaurants. The bags of garbage, the bustle, and the closed kitchens added up to “wasted food, wasted energy and lack of connection with the environment.”

“I had no real desire to enter the restaurant world again,” he said. “It was eating at my conscience.”

That changed when the opportunity came to run a different, more conscientious kind of restaurant. Patterson was teaching yoga full time when his landlord approached him with a house for rent. The landlord thought Patterson might use the space for a restaurant. He liked the idea and proposed it to partner Amber Tande and friends Jan and Aaron Geibel. The group opened Sutra last July.

As chef, Patterson delivers an unconventional meal in an unconventional setting. The result is an inclusive experience, with local ingredients, minimal waste and a community setting.

“I think people are hungry for a more holistic way of dining, for a deeper connection to what they’re eating,” Patterson said.

Sutra uses an open kitchen, with Patterson and sous chef Aaron Geibel cooking just behind the tables, separated from the patrons by only a counter. “We’re so much more connected to what’s going on out there,” said Patterson.

Patterson and Geibel chat with patrons, giving the restaurant the feel of a dinner party. Meals begin with the ringing of a gong, a blessing and a statement of appreciation for the farmers who grew the food.

Patterson uses a prix fixe, three or four course menu, which changes weekly. “Oftentimes, the best thing [at a restaurant] is the chef’s special. It’s what’s inspired at the moment and it often has the most intention and focus at the time it’s being made,” he said. “When a chef makes something two thousand times, doing it every single night, it loses something.”

Patterson’s menu adds to the “intentional dining” at Sutra and reflects his creativity: bright green crepes made from mung beans and risotto made not from pasta but from macadamia nuts. Ravioli made from thinly sliced celeriac root, not pasta. Not to mention a chocolate cheesecake sans cream cheese and cream. The substitute? Cashews.

Patterson uses seasonal ingredients and keeps makes his purchases “as local as possible.”

Local farms such as Full Circle and Growing Washington, and foragers like Foraged and Found Edibles contribute to the menu. Prices range from $28 to $40 a person.

Coffee comes from Pangea Roasters, which Patterson said uses a “conscious sourcing of beans.” The organic, fair trade beans get delivered in a glass jar, which is returned to Pangea for minimal waste. The restaurant also buys from Theo Chocolate, located in Fremont.

Sutra composts its food waste and throws out only one small bag of garbage a week, despite seeing some 60 to 80 customers in that time. Patterson also cultivates a garden behind the restaurant, which he hopes to use for edible flowers and herbs.

Sutra offers two seatings a night, meaning everyone in the restaurant eats the same food at the same time. The restaurant can accommodate up to 35 people. And they sit at one of three tables.”We wanted a hub for people to connect,” said Patterson. He said he often sees people exchanging cell phone numbers at the end of the meal. “We all feel the amount of separation there is with people moving from one box to the next box and not having the chance to get close to each other.”

Sutra’s vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine (which is actually almost always vegan) reflects Patterson’s own lifestyle.

“Vegetarianism is my life choice. I stand by it. It has less of an impact on the planet and it feels better in my body and in my mind.” Sutra also asks diners to state any preferences or allergies when making a reservation. Patterson accommodates things like nut allergies and even a raw food diet for one patron. The menu is also tofu-free, which Patterson says is “because it’s highly processed and a lot of people have a problem with soy.” Plus, he added, “it’s dead filler,” not as tasty as other ingredients he uses.

Patterson, who studied at Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore., was trained to cook meat, but said, “I wouldn’t take a job with meat again.”

After graduating from WCI, Patterson moved to Vashon Island and worked in “lots of little places.” He started out cooking breakfast because he was told that was the best way to learn to multitask in the kitchen and work fast.

He bounced around, later working at Crystal Mountain ski area in the winter, returning to Seattle in the summers. He then ran Coho’s Wine Bar and Seafood Grill in Buckley for a few years and later the Blossoming Lotus on Kaua’i. There, he found an “intentional, connected” way of cooking with vegan and organic food that would later inspire Sutra.

Patterson and Tande also own Rain City Yoga, where they teach classes several days a week. Yoga influences Patterson’s restaurant and his lifestyle, with close attention paid to the mind and body.

“Yoga is about being in touch with the body and your intuition,” he said. It’s clear, though, that everything about Sutra—from the menu to the seating arrangement—is after that same goal.

Try Colin’s recipe for
Chanterelle Cashew Cheese Celeriac Ravioli with Balsamic Reduction and Truffle Oil

Sutra Vegetarian Cuisine
605 N 45th St, Seattle

Megan Hill is a New Orleans native who found Seattle interesting and decided to relocate here.

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