Chef Andreas has competed in 17 annual Coupeville Musselfests. But, for this five time winner, including last year’s, there’s one thing he’d like to do over. He says, “I wish I would have saved the recipes.”
Chef Andreas Wurzrainer purchased Christopers in the 2002, and, ever since, has tried a different recipe for each Musselfest. The last two years he’s featured Hubbard Squash, last year creating a Hubbard Squash and apple Curry that provided him with his fifth win.
“There’s a subtlety and a sweetness in the squash” explains Andreas, “that makes a nice contradiction with the mussels.”
One of his winning chowders has reached “retired” status; no longer being served as as part of the contest. Instead, his smoked salmon and mussels in cream sauce is sold outside the restaurant during Musselfest each year. Also, if you know how to request it, can be served up inside the restaurant during the year.
A BUSY TIME
“We love Musselfest,” explains Andreas, adding, that it’s Coupeville’s, “time to shine,” adding, “We want people to remember us.” He considers Musselfest, which is held in early March, the community’s kick-off to a new season. But, what a kick-off! He says Musselfest, “is probably our busiest weekend” of the year.
He credits Musselfest with giving Christopers a much-needed boost when he was just starting. The restaurant was already in business when he and his wife purchased it. Just two months later a still-young Musselfest brought new attention to the restaurant. He says, “It’s the best advertising I’ve ever done.”
While he doesn’t have recipes to share, he does have some insider chef tips, at least as far as winning Musselfest is concerned. He’s tried a Manhattan-style red chowder twice. Those didn’t wow the Musselfest visitors as much as the traditional white. He isn’t saying you can’t win with a red chowder, just that it, “is hard to win.”
AN ISLAND FAVORITE
Christopers has evolved into one of the Island’s favorites. A wintertime Wednesday found the dining room packed at lunchtime. During the summer, reservations are a really good idea.
Chef Andreas came to Coupeville as a classically-trained European chef, first in Austria, and later in Munich. He spent four years as an executive chef on cruise ships, earned his Master Chef Degree in Europe before moving to Seattle. In Seattle he was chef at the Olympic Four Seasons and at Cascadia, a trendy restaurant in Seattle’s Belltown.
But, the pull of small town life brought Andreas and his wife Lisa to Coupeville. He says Coupeville was the “same size as the village I grew up in in Austria.”
He describes his approach to food as, “I don’t believe in over handling the food (with) too much stirring and handling.”
He likes where the restaurants are taking food with things like the slow food movement. He recalls how food tasted and was locally sourced when he was growing up in Austria, but that as he entered the restaurant world, the emphasis was on perfect looking vegetables that could live in the refrigerator for months. Those vegetables, of course, had little taste and less character. “It’s all coming full circle,” notes Andreas. He partners with Whidbey Island’s Bells Farm for many of his ingredients. He says his dream goal would be to source 100% of his product locally.
So, what’s the plan for 2019? He hasn’t firmed things up. But, chances are it will feature local ingredients and be a crowd favorite. Let’s hope he assigns someone to write down the recipe.