Inspired by the rustic, farmhouse cooking of Southern France, Campagne’s chef/owner Daisley Gordon combines simple ingredients and cooking methods for dazzling results.
STORY BY JACKIE VARRIANO
PHOTOS BY AMBER FOUTS
In 1995, Cafe Campagne’s Jamaican-born, Kentucky-raised Daisley Gordon landed in Seattle, sight unseen. He had graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York (CIA), in March 1994 and moved out west for a girl. “Which I think is a good reason to move,” he says. “I got that girl, actually, and we’re celebrating almost 21 years.”
After a month-long stint at Tom Douglas’s Etta’s, he heard of an opening at Campagne. At the time, Tamara Murphy (Terra Plata) was the head chef, and Jim Drohman (Le Pichet, Cafe Presse) was the sous chef; the opening was for a lead cook. The opportunity was a big step for Daisley and, only a year out of culinary school, he jumped at the chance.
“I started working there and never left, because one opportunity after another came up.”
He went from lead cook to sous chef to head chef to partner in 2011, and now he is the sole owner of Cafe Campagne, located in Pike Place Market’s Post Alley.
Despite cooking at a French restaurant for most of his career, Daisley says the story of how he felt about French food when he first started at Campagne isn’t romantic. The menu felt familiar, mainly because the CIA program is based on the French approach to cooking — menu items and the dining style — but it was really the people that drew him in.
“The people were great; the energy of the kitchen was extraordinary; and our service staff team were all beautiful and fantastic professionals.”
After Daisley was appointed head chef, he traveled regularly to France, where his love affair with the food blossomed. At first, he and his wife mostly spent time in Paris, knocking one Michelin-starred restaurant after another off their list.
“We got a firm handle on things that happen at Michelin restaurants,” says Daisley. “They were delightful; extraordinary service experience and sublime food.”
Then they started traveling outside of Paris, spending time in Nice, Marseille, and in small towns throughout the Bordeaux region. Daisley calls it a turning point. “Being around more everyday people and more rustic approaches really kind of pushed me into another gear.”
Inspired by the farmhouse cooking of Southern France, Daisley was drawn to dishes that combined simple ingredients and cooking methods, yet produced dazzling results. Case in point, his take on calamari.
The dish first went on the menu when he became head chef in 2000. “When I took over, everyone had calamari on the menu, and tons of people still do, but it was fried.” Served with a harissa aioli, Campagne’s fried calamari was “delicious, but I wanted to do something that I thought was more typical of a French approach.”
Parsley, garlic, and olive oil are the components of persillade, a classic French sauce that begs for customization. Everything from lemon to anchovy can be thrown in the simple sauce with wonderful results.
“I had used that flavor combination with scallops and thought it would be interesting to see how this works with calamari, so I concocted using a combination of capers, olive oil — mostly extra-virgin — finely minced garlic, finely chopped parsley, and lemon juice. And the thing with the dish, after all the thinking that went into it, was that it comes together really quickly, like a minute.”
Daisley says the only way to do this dish well is to have everything ready beforehand. Additionally, it’s important to have everything prepped properly.
“There are a lot of recipes out there where you have to drive all over creation to get stuff, get special equipment, and then you have to go to culinary school to make it,” he says. And this dish isn’t one of those. “That’s what I love about this dish and why I love sharing it.”
Calamars a la Provencal
Serves: 2 | Total time: 30 minutes
- 1/4 pound squid, cleaned and cut into thin rings, tentacles cut to size
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place portioned squid on paper towel–lined tray or plate. Top with garlic and parsley. In a sauté pan, over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add capers and cook until they pop open. Add calamari, garlic, and parsley all at the same time. Carefully swirl with a cooking spoon. Continue until calamari is turning white and getting firm (this should not take more than a minute). Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon onto a warm plate or shallow bowl, along with as much olive oil as you would like for bread dipping.
If you want to make a larger amount, it is best to cook in small batches, as the process is very fast. Larger batches require an unsafe amount of hot oil.