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December 1, 2015

Q & A: Chef Alec Takagi on cooking and inspiration from mom

Ocean Shores residents and visitors might know local restaurant staple Alec’s By the Sea as the trustworthy home to standard American comfort food, but what they might not know is that Chef Alec Takagi did it all for his mother.

What would you say is your signature dish?

My Seafood Sauté is the item that customers keep coming back for. I think it’s because I use local, fresh manila clams, mussels and any other local seafood that is in season.

What is your favorite local seafood to cook with?

Oysters and razor clams equally, then of course the summer or Chinook salmon when I can get it. I love it here, I’ve been cooking here for over 30 years and it’s the local seafood that makes it a great

(Gabe Green | The Daily World) Alec Tagaki of Alec’s By the Sea.

(Gabe Green | The Daily World)
Alec Tagaki of Alec’s By the Sea.

place to cook.

Where did you go to school?

I studied at culinary schools in Seattle, but my real schooling came from being a cook in the U.S. Army for three years. American soldiers were the toughest critics. I was their first cook after their mothers, so if I got a meal wrong, boy did I hear about it.

Did you win over any of those critics?

Apparently, I had a good reputation. Soldiers heard about me before they arrived in camp. I guess you could say they were my first reviewers.

Who inspired your culinary interests?

My mom. She was always cooking and no one could make a better bowl of rice than she could. I know that sounds like a simple dish, but it’s a true skill to make good rice and my mother was the best. She would make her own tempura, and my kids particularly loved her Sukiyaki. She lived for 96 years eating well and still inspires me today, two years since her passing.

What’s the one tool you can’t live without in the kitchen?

My imagination, and a good knife. Now that I think about it, a sauté pan too. You can make anything if you have those in the kitchen.

Which food item is surprisingly tough to master?

Steak. Steaks are not simple, they seem simple but that’s deceiving. It takes a very long time and many, many attempts to get the huge variety of steak cuts just right. That in itself could be a chef’s lifelong journey.

Chef Takagi opened his eponomys restaurant Alec’s by the Sea in 1994, as the pinnacle of his long Pacific Northwest culinary career. Alec and his wife, Renate, and their now grown children have called Ocean Shores home since 1969.

Stop in any day of the week and you’ll likely still see Chef Takagi preparing his fresh meals.

Alec’s by the Sea is located at 131 W Chance a La Mer NW, Ocean Shores, WA 98569, Phone: (360) 289-4026

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