MUKILTEO — Adrian Ramirez decided to become a chef on a whim.
It was 1999. He was halfway through his senior year at Kamiak High School, but had no career plans. One of his teachers suggested trying the culinary arts program at Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center in Everett.
“I was working as a dishwasher at a local restaurant,” Ramirez said. “It sounded like a great idea.”
Ramirez, 36, of Mukilteo, learned about the basics of cooking and the ins and outs of running a restaurant through the program.
“There’s a lot of math, a lot of calculating, that goes into the restaurant business that people don’t know about,” he said.
Ramirez was promoted from dishwasher to line cook at The Pointe Restaurant & Lounge at Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo after he enrolled at Sno-Isle TECH. He was named sous chef in 2004, then executive chef in 2007.
But after 17 years at The Pointe, he reached a crossroad.
“I was just thinking, ‘What’s the next step?’ ” Ramirez said. “I always felt like I could do it myself. I put my money where my mouth was.”
“It is scary and awesome all at the same time,” Ramirez said. “It is awesome because I can create whatever flavor profiles I want, as well as use whatever ingredients I want. The scary part is ultimately our guests tell us if our food is good or not.
“As a chef, you want the guests to love the food. You want them to feel the passion that you cooked with.”
Red Cork’s menu offers everything from chicken Parmesan sandwiches and blackened prawn salads to mini cheeseburgers and fettuccine bolognese. Everything is prepared in-house.
Ramirez said his soups, which are made fresh daily, are especially popular. Regular customers encouraged him to start a Soup 101 class, held the last Saturday of every month, to teach how to make his soups at home.
Ramirez’s favorite is a jalapeno corn chowder, which he created while he was experimenting with chowders at The Pointe Restaurant. It’s Red Cork’s soup of the day on Fridays.
“I just love the flavors,” Ramirez said. “I love corn, I love spicy and creamy. It’s just a really good recipe.”
Sno-Isle TECH’s culinary arts program has two main goals: teaching students the foundations of cooking and preparing them to run their own restaurants. Le Bistro, a student-run fine dining restaurant at the school, gives students firsthand experience cooking food and serving customers.
Maggie Bagwell, director of the Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center, was pleasantly surprised to find Ramirez running Red Cork Bistro. She wasn’t aware of his success until one day she and her co-workers happened to eat there after school.
She said she was excited that a former student had found his passion.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Bagwell said.
Evan Thompson: 360-544-2999, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @evanthompson_1.
Red Cork Bistro & Catering
Where: 11700 Mukilteo Speedway No. 405, Mukilteo
When: Lunch is 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner is served 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Open 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday.
More: 425-374-8472 or www.redcorkbistro.com
Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center
Where: 9001 Airport Road, Everett
When: Registration open now for fall quarter. First day is Sept. 11.
More: 425-348-2220 or www.snoisletech.com
Jalapeno corn chowder
3 cups yellow corn
¾ cup onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 dry bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups heavy cream (40 percent)
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Saute onions, celery, jalapenos and corn in olive oil on medium heat until onions are translucent.
In a separate pan, add heavy cream and chicken stock and bring to a simmer (keep your eye on it as it will boil over).
Once liquid has begun to simmer add bay leaf, tarragon, white pepper, celery salt, Cajun seasoning and granulated onion.
Once seasonings are well mixed into liquid, combine with corn mixture. Bring soup to a boil, then turn it back down to a simmer. Add white vinegar. Add sugar. Salt and pepper to taste.
Soup is finished once it is at your desired thickness. Garnish each bowl of soup with crushed bay leaf. Serve with slices of crusty bread, such as sourdough.
Serves 5 (makes 8 to 10 cups).