Questions with Answers: World Traveling Chef, Sunshine Dunning

 

Sunshine Dunning is a graduate of the CIA (not that one, the Culinary Institue of America, although I bet she could fight some crime) and now spends her time creating dishes for her organic pre-made meal company Sunshines All Naturals\u200B.  When not in Seattle, she's usually trotting around Europe drinking wine and making cheese.  Some would say she has things figured out.  I asked her some questions.

Being an accomplished traditional chef, what was the thought process when you were deciding to launch into organic pre-made meals?

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Sunshine Dunning is a graduate of the CIA (not that one, the Culinary Institue of America, although I bet she could fight some crime) and now spends her time creating dishes for her organic pre-made meal company Sunshines All Naturals.  When not in Seattle, she's usually trotting around Europe drinking wine and making cheese.  Some would say she has things figured out.  I asked her some questions.

Being an accomplished traditional chef, what was the thought process when you were deciding to launch into organic pre-made meals?

 
I was a personal chef for over 7 years. I knew I wanted to start my own company, and had an idea of bringing the personal chef service to everyone. The idea that the average working person would trust someone to find quality ingredients, make them taste delicious, and have it be affordable...that's something I wanted to explore.

\u200B\u200BWho do you find is your most common customer?

Our biggest demographic used to be working women between 25-50 but we've seen a big push with men since we started offering Paleo meals.

Yeah, my buddy's sister is all about that.  I probably should be too.  So what's your favorite season for ingredients?\u200B

Hands down the fall. Everyone has this idea that Summer is the time for all the gorgeous fruits and vegetables but sadly it's not true in Seattle. You see all these peaches and strawberries and tomatoes but they're all from California and Mexico. Our produce doesn't really take off until late summer early fall and can last all the way to December. It's also our most beautiful time of year, so to be outside and cooking and eating.... yeah, I like the fall.

So once you have these ingredients, what's your process when coming up with menu items?\u200B

Selfishly the menus and dishes are written around what sounds good to me. I get fresh sheets each week on what's being harvested or being caught by the fishermen we work with. Usually these are fairly limited to around a dozen things, so it helps me narrow down my options, and then the creativity comes in. I love to eat and cook food from all over the world so that helps with variety. I go to Europe every year for 5 or 6 weeks and this is really my rejuvenation. I eat and eat and eat. I collect menus, meet chefs, have dinners in locals homes. I always return with new ideas, tastes I want to try with our local goods.

\u200BIf there was a dish of yours I absolutely \u200Bhad to try right now, what would it be?

Huh, that's hard because it changes each week. If I had to choose one it might be our Wheat Berry Salad. We get these wheat berries from Nash's Organic farm and cook them until they're buttery tender. Then they are tossed with cilantro, almonds, kale, radishes and feta. It sounds terribly healthy but everyone loves it. I take it to demonstrations and tastes. Everyone usually says, \"Well, if she can make this taste good, imagine the three cheese mac and cheese with brown butter bread crumbs!\"

I am imagining it.  I need to stop.  What's not stopping is the ass kicking job going on with the Seattle culinary scene.  How do you see it changing in the next few years?\u200B

I don't really see it changing, just becoming more of what it is. We're already getting that great reputation for restaurants and chefs that support the local food movement and sustainable seafood. I think it's great when I'm at a restaurant and overhear other diners questioning the use of asparagus in winter, or they can't fathom farm raised salmon from the Atlantic.

Alright alright.  Now for the big one.  You have won a prize.  The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both).  The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000.  The second option is ten minutes on the moon.  Which option do you select?

Europe. I wouldn't last long on freeze dried food packets.

I did not think about that aspect.\u200B

Follow Sunshine on Twitter and holler at her Facebook.  If she doesn't answer, it's because she's tending to the garden.\u200B

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I was a personal chef for over 7 years. I knew I wanted to start my own company, and had an idea of bringing the personal chef service to everyone. The idea that the average working person would trust someone to find quality ingredients, make them taste delicious, and have it be affordable...that's something I wanted to explore.

Who do you find is your most common customer?

Our biggest demographic used to be working women between 25-50 but we've seen a big push with men since we started offering Paleo meals.

Yeah, my buddy's sister is all about that.  I probably should be too.  So what's your favorite season for ingredients?

Hands down the fall. Everyone has this idea that Summer is the time for all the gorgeous fruits and vegetables but sadly it's not true in Seattle. You see all these peaches and strawberries and tomatoes but they're all from California and Mexico. Our produce doesn't really take off until late summer early fall and can last all the way to December. It's also our most beautiful time of year, so to be outside and cooking and eating.... yeah, I like the fall.

So once you have these ingredients, what's your process when coming up with menu items?

Selfishly the menus and dishes are written around what sounds good to me. I get fresh sheets each week on what's being harvested or being caught by the fishermen we work with. Usually these are fairly limited to around a dozen things, so it helps me narrow down my options, and then the creativity comes in. I love to eat and cook food from all over the world so that helps with variety. I go to Europe every year for 5 or 6 weeks and this is really my rejuvenation. I eat and eat and eat. I collect menus, meet chefs, have dinners in locals homes. I always return with new ideas, tastes I want to try with our local goods.

If there was a dish of yours I absolutely had to try right now, what would it be?

Huh, that's hard because it changes each week. If I had to choose one it might be our Wheat Berry Salad. We get these wheat berries from Nash's Organic farm and cook them until they're buttery tender. Then they are tossed with cilantro, almonds, kale, radishes and feta. It sounds terribly healthy but everyone loves it. I take it to demonstrations and tastes. Everyone usually says, "Well, if she can make this taste good, imagine the three cheese mac and cheese with brown butter bread crumbs!"

I am imagining it.  I need to stop.  What's not stopping is the ass kicking job going on with the Seattle culinary scene.  How do you see it changing in the next few years?

I don't really see it changing, just becoming more of what it is. We're already getting that great reputation for restaurants and chefs that support the local food movement and sustainable seafood. I think it's great when I'm at a restaurant and overhear other diners questioning the use of asparagus in winter, or they can't fathom farm raised salmon from the Atlantic.

Alright alright.  Now for the big one.  You have won a prize.  The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both).  The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000.  The second option is ten minutes on the moon.  Which option do you select?

Europe. I wouldn't last long on freeze dried food packets.

I did not think about that aspect.

Follow Sunshine on Twitter and holler at her Facebook.  If she doesn't answer, it's because she's tending to the garden.