Maria Hangs Out

When you take a look at Maria Hines' cleanliving, holistic way of life, it seems only fitting that she would head the kitchen of a Seattle restaurant called Earth & Ocean in the W Hotel. Before arriving in Seattle in 1999, she worked for two of New York City's great restaurant companies, Union Square Hospitality Group (as a sous chef at Eleven Madison Park) and Myriad Restaurant Group (as executive sous chef at 15 Ria in Washington, D.C.). But she's most at home in Seattle cooking new American cuisine with a heavy emphasis on local and organic ingredients. For her efforts, the 33-year-old was named one of "America's Best New Chefs" by Food & Wine earlier this year.

Maria, are you out of your mind?
I don't think so; I just love climbing.

Yeah, but most people don't do it with a refrigerator in tow.
A girl has to eat.

So, where are you hanging out?
Today, I'm just east of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains.

It looks dangerous.
It's really not, though I wouldn't want to fall.

Have you had any close calls?
No, but I was in the gym recently on a rock climbing wall and I was dropped 25 feet. I'm still a bit sore.

Have you considered bowling?
Even though this is dangerous, it's very life-affirming and meditative. When you're climbing, your body and mind must work and focus together.

So, what does a girl eat when she's hanging way too high above earth?
A lot of organic stuff.

Smart! This is no place for a cheeseburger and fries.
You got that right.

What about home?
I work so much I don't do a lot of cooking at home. In the morning I'll sometimes have a smoothie that I make with lowfat yogurt, organic rice milk and organic strawberries I picked at a local farm.

From the looks of your fridge, you're very committed to organics.
At home, about 80 percent of what I buy is organic, and that includes shampoo and stuff like that. The other 20 percent is natural products.

And how about the restaurant?
We're about 40 to 50 percent organic. I'd like to get that higher, but when a customer comes into the restaurant and wants cantaloupe, even though it's not cataloupe season, we serve it. We have a whatever, whenever policy, and rightly so.

Seattle is so progressive, we imagine organics are more easily had.
There are so many farmers and ranchers here in Washington state who grow and raise things organically. A lot of what I buy is grown here regionally by people I know. I often visit them at the source.

You're so down to earth, Maria, except for this mountain climbing thing. What does your staff think?
We have quite a few cooks who are climbers, and others are snowboarders and kayakers. We're very active in Seattle.

So, what's next? Mt. Everest?
Some day I'd like to climb in Thailand. The gorgeous limestone mountains there are right on the water. It's beautiful.

It's all downhill from there, Maria.
I'd like to think that there is always another mountain to climb.

WHAT’S CHILLIN’:
Organic Butter
Low-Fat Yogurt
Organic Radishes from
Full Circle Farm
Organic Wild Capers
Dijon Mustard
Organic Green
Goddess Dressing
Organic Washington
State Apples
Vivace Coffee
Organic Washington
State Peppers from
Billy Alstot Farm