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Chef Raymond Southern

A worldwide traveler finds a home on Orcas Island, part 2

In part 1, we learned about Chef Raymond's early life, education, and jobs leading to his executive chef position with Holland America.

Overall, Raymond spent 13-14 years as an executive chef with Holland America. He left for five years, marrying and having a son in Peru. While working with Westin Hotels in Grand Cayman, Hurricane Ivan struck, demolishing the island. His wife and son returned to Peru while he stayed to rebuild the hotel. During that time, he got back in touch with Holland America. They were interested in having him become a corporate executive chef, which he did for three years. His marriage ended and he moved from ship to ship, finetuning things, creating menus and seasonal switch menus (when ships move from winter to summer itineraries). "My last year was all about travel, I'd go from Hawaii to Dubrovnik, two ships in the same day, doing press lunches and cooking demos. Or I'd head to JFK to head toward a new ship and find out I was going to Barcelona instead. That began to be a typical day."

Raymond in St. Maarten

He worked remotely with Holland America's Enhancement Manager, Holly Johnsen, who curated speakers and guest chefs, built library cafes onboard, partnered with the New York Times on content, and Food & Wine for culinary art centers. "Raymond understood exactly what I was trying to create with our culinary program," says Holly. They finally met in person in New York at a celebrity chef event; he was scheduled to fly to Miami after the lunch. Instead, he asked her out for dinner, and flew out the next day. "We hit it off. Our dating life over the next few months was meeting at events. Or I'd have a stopover in San Diego and she'd fly down from Seattle." Eventually, he returned to Westin, taking a job in St. Maarten where Holly joined him. They stayed two years, but due to visa changes, Holly had to return to the U.S. In 2009, she got a job at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It really made me look at food in a different way," she says. Raymond got a job at an old-school private country club. "I was really like a personal chef to the members and they took full advantage of doing creative things. It was fun for me." They stayed 2-3 years and married while there.

Holly and Raymond in Holland America days

Wanting to return to the Northwest where Holly had lived in Seattle for 15 years and Raymond had grown up in B.C., they took a one-year lease in West Seattle. Holly saw a posting for an events and culinary project manager at the Pike Place Market Foundation. Two weeks later she was there, staying from 2012-2013. Raymond worked with the Munchery, a firm that tapped chefs to produce recipes to be cooked, packaged, and delivered to people. Munchery eventually folded and they talked about possibly moving out of the city.

An agency contacted Raymond about an opportunity at Rosario Resort & Spa on Orcas Island. He started work in October of 2015 and Holly came on board as Director of Marketing and Public Relations the following January.

Since the week he began working on Orcas, he connected with local farmers and producers to bring local items to the table. "It's exciting to come into each new season and get the Ozette potatoes, local beets, etc. There's a guy on the island who raises goats and lambs. We also get rabbit from the island. Each year brings new ideas; it's never boring." He would do different interpretations of dishes from his travels, like his Bolognese. "It's simple with a couple of things that change the flavor. It's a memory trip when I make it."

When he and Holly left Rosario this past June, they had a plan to stay on the island. "We love island life. Every day is different. We have amazing orchards and growing areas, great grass for grazing, and summer is filled with everything you can imagine." In September they took over the historic Kingfish Inn and West Sound Café, now called Kingfish at West Sound. The inn has four rooms and a restaurant that shares a special relationship with OrcaSong Farm, working together on planting vegetables and flowers, with more to come in the future. Guests will see how the relationship between farm and table is woven throughout the restaurant. Life has come full circle for Chef Raymond. Having grown up on the farm, he now spends his days bringing the community together around the farm and table. Island life continues.

Raymond and Holly at Kingfish on opening day, 10/23/19


Kingfish at West Sound
4362 Crow Valley Road
Eastsound, WA 98245

Click here to read Part 1

Connie Adams/December 2019

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