Freedom Reigns
Line cook at the Palace Kitchen, 2001 Fifth Ave, 448-2001.

With a name like Freedom Reigns, you'd think his specialties would be bulgur and tofu, but he's actually one of celeb-chef Tom Douglas' most valuable employees, turning out splendid dishes at Douglas' Palace Kitchen.

How did you start your career? "I started working at PCC when I was 16 and got involved with organic produce and cheeses. I worked in the deli, making bulk pastas and vegetarian terrines. My parents also owned a produce delivery company, so Mom was cooking a lot."

What did your mom cook? "Actually a lot of meats--she's German, so lots of stews and sausages."

Then you went to Alaska? "Yeah, I went to work in a restaurant there when I was 19. I started off as a dishwasher and prep cook. I kept pushing myself because I didn't want to keep dishwashing. Eventually I started cooking on the line and as a pantry cook, shucking oysters and making desserts. After that I moved to Colorado and started cooking a lot of meats on the grill--there's not much fresh produce in Colorado. I learned to cook steak and chicken and frozen fish. When I moved to Seattle I started working at Café Sophie (now Avenue One) and that's where I got the chance to pan-fry--crab cakes, fresh fish...."

You obviously love food. What is it you love about cooking? What gives you satisfaction? "Part of it is working a great restaurant like the Palace. I tell people where I work, and all I get is smiles; people often say it's the best food they've ever had. There's also the satisfaction of painting a plate, creating a picture with each element--this fish, the sauce, the vegetables...."

Do you have much opportunity to experiment, or are you generally following the head chef's guidelines? "I do get that opportunity sometimes. A couple of weeks ago I made pork loin stuffed with rabbit pté. I just came in on my day off, made it, and it ended up on the menu."

If you could cook a meal for any three musicians, who would they be and what would you make? "I'd love to cook for DJ Q-Bert, Mix Master Mike, and DJ Yoga Frog of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz. I'd make them sweetbreads and scallops wrapped in rice paper, pan-seared, with salmon caviar, spicy mustard-miso sauce, and grilled baby bok choy."

Interview by Hannah Levin