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Chef Joshua Delgado

Josh grew up in southern Arizona. His mother was from a New York Italian family and his father was second or third generation Mexican. Food at home was mostly from the Mexican side of the family. Each year on his birthday, his dad would make him Fettuccini Alfredo. "I was always so impressed," recalls Josh. But every-day eating was simple. At his grandmother's and great-grandmother's houses, beans and tortillas were always on. His mother was a functional cook; it was just about getting the kids fed since she worked full time.

In high school, Josh thought he'd like to work in the industry after watching Food Network shows. "After football and basketball seasons were over, I was home after school and watched those shows. Dad moved to Washington and my brothers and I stayed with mom in Tucson. There was nothing there-housing developments and desert. But there were a couple of golf courses."

Josh at Le Coin in Fremont

In 1999-2000 he got an entry level job at one of the high-end courses, The Gallery Golf Club. "They had an oddly strong culinary program and the kitchen was old school. Even dishwashers wore toques. At 16, I would do anything for spending money. The minute I walked in I was hooked. All the pans were hung in front of the hood, organized, super clean, polished." He worked there over five years, eventually becoming sous chef. "I also was a server and learned a lot about the polish you need."

He applied to the CIA but needed pre-requisites, so he attended a local junior college. Throughout college he worked for R & G Foods, Latitude Catering, in emergency response. "They had massive kitchens set up in semi-trucks: you had to feed people quickly or have meals strapped on pallets so helicopters could take the food to emergency responders. We worked Hurricane Katrina and fires in the middle of the Montana mountains. I learned logistics about feeding large groups quickly."

He set a goal of becoming an executive chef by the age of 30. In Tucson, a chef named Bruce Yim had a restaurant called Vin Tabla. Another chef suggested Josh meet Bruce. "I didn't want to go, but he said it wasn't a big deal, just go meet the guy. The space was incredible, all new and beautiful. They spared no expense. Their sommelier was one of 13 female Master Sommeliers. They were doing food I was unfamiliar with so I knew I could learn a lot. I went in and was handed a written test. I bombed. But Chef Yim saw something in me and I got the job. I helped open the restaurant and stayed 8 or 9 months and met some lifelong friends."

Josh moved to Seattle and submitted resumes to Thierry Rautureau, Daisley Gordon, and the Herb Farm. A friend of his mom's suggested applying to Barking Frog at Willows Lodge in Woodinville. "When I walked into the dining room at Barking Frog, I got that same feeling I had the first time I walked into a kitchen. The menu looked good and there were unfamiliar things. I interviewed with the HR Director, then Chef Bobby Moore. He told me they had a garde manger position open. I'd already done that; I was looking for more. But I loved the feel of the place. Then I saw the kitchen. I was used to high end and this kitchen was so disappointing. I was young and naïve; the space didn't matter. I stayed over seven years." He moved up quickly to sous chef then was chef de cuisine for three years. "It was transformative. Their standards were higher than anywhere I'd worked. I was exposed to using foraged items, seasonal cooking, local ingredients. I became interested in where food comes from and being responsible about purchasing. I learned from Bobby, other chefs, and about service, wine, and pairing, and how to be a chef in front of people. The place almost killed me, but it was a wonderful time. I also met my soon-to-be wife there, Kristin. She started there at 16 or 17 and may be the longest-tenured employee there. She is just finishing her doctorate. She'll graduate in April 2020 from the UW."

Shaun Tucker, GM at Willows Lodge, pushed Josh to move on to gain more experience. Shaun eventually moved to Willows' sister property (at the time), Alderbrook Resort & Spa. At 27, Josh interviewed and was offered a job with Ethan Stowell Restaurants. "I was impressed with their product and the way they communicated, but it didn't feel right. I took a job at Camano Island Inn and loved the romance of having a farm a quarter of a mile away from the inn where we grew our own food. We had apple, pear, and quince trees; whales swam by. It was me and one cook in the kitchen. It didn't work out, I left in under a year."

Shaun Tucker approached him about being executive chef at Alderbrook. Josh fell in love with the area and resort. But it was 2-1/2 hours away from home. Kristin was going back to school and Josh knew he would work long hours, so they agreed to give it a shot. "I loved it. It was a tremendous opportunity, and we grew our own oysters and clams. We were down the road from a woman who grew wasabi. When I met the executive team, I knew I wanted to be surrounded by and grow with them. They assured me I would be able to rent something locally and keep Kris' and my place. I took the job, going home every weekend. It was huge, 35-40 people in the kitchen peak season. I was the executive chef and F&B department lead. Overall, about 100 people reported to me."

Josh stayed for three years until he and Kris decided they needed more time together. He had built a catering company called Kitchen Table with his friend Chris Feller and thought he could make a full-time go of that. Alderbrook put a package together to keep him there. He was walking toward the office to accept the offer when he got a phone call from Jordan Melnikoff about joining him and Bryce Phillips to build a restaurant group. Kris was still in school, they were young and had no kids, it was a good time to take the plunge of being a chef in the city independent of a hotel. He turned Alderbrook down.

The partners found the space where the Buckaroo Tavern had been for 72 years and Roux had been for four years in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. They opened Le Coin in July 2018.

"I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't found the kitchen at 16. It gave me structure. For the last 20 years, I've had a single-minded obsession. It's difficult but exhilarating."

March 2020

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