New Chef At Coho

Chef at work shelling peas

If you take a peek through the kitchen doors, you’ll find a new face behind the range. We are thrilled to introduce our new head chef, Bill Messick.

Joining us from the finest restaurants in Colorado, Bill was anxious to escape the congestion, the smog, and the hustle & bustle of city life. He was looking for a small community with a good feel to it, and lots of outdoor activities; needless to say, San Juan Island fit the bill perfectly. Bill loves the high quality of the produce and foods the island farmers have to offer, and had even scouted out the local farms before showing up for his interview. “There’s so much you can do with each and every ingredient. If you cook seasonally, and locally, you’ll never get bored.”

Trained in an intensive 13-month culinary school, Bill served his internship in Maui, HI with internationally renown super star chef Roy Yamaguchi. He next pulled a stint with the land-based resort for Princess Cruise Lines in Denali National Park, Alaska, serving 1300 meals a day. The seasonal nature of that position led to posts in Colorado, where he honed his skills in French and Italian preparations. Bill’s favorite gig was at Mizuna, a small restaurant with an open kitchen, and no routines; the staff developed the constantly changing menus together, always challenging each other and their abilities.

Moving on to Chef de Cuisine at Luca D’Italia in Denver, Bill made fresh mozzarella, ricotta, pastas, breadsticks, bresaola, and more, which he absolutely loved. But his desire to “just cook and snowboard” landed him at LaTour in Vail, where snowboarding eventually lost out to cooking as he became Executive Chef for three years.

If he were to sum up his “food philosophy,” it would be simple foods, fresh ingredients, proper techniques; those techniques may take longer, but they’re worth it. “What makes the food memorable is the combination of flavors – textures that contrast, but flavors that complement each other.”

On his arrival at Coho, Chef Bill hit the ground running: with a full schedule of bookings, from wine dinners and holiday parties, to catered weddings, Bill was unflappable, executing them all with aplomb. Bill’s goal for Coho is to change the menu every month in addition to numerous daily specials, always trying new things. In fact, he loves the challenge of creating something “on-the spot” and accommodating special requests on slow evenings. For diners who can plan at least 24 hours ahead, he’ll do a special tasting menu just for you: let him know how many courses you want and he’ll run with it. It’s almost like having a private chef.

Accompanying Bill is his ever-present best buddy, Bijou, a six-year-old Border Collie. During the warmer weather, she stays all night on the back porch of the restaurant until he’s finished at the range, but now that the brisk temperatures have set in, she waits patiently for him at home. Bijou takes Bill on daily runs over the islands’ many trials and back roads, doing her part to keep him healthy and cooking creatively. Everyone on staff happily volunteers to watch Bijou while Bill is working!

Bill takes over for Chef Alphonsine Haslett-Phillips, who is expecting her new baby in February.

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