When Sophia Kitay was a teenager, she received her first cookbook, “The Food Lab,” from her mother. Years later, the author of that book paid a visit to her restaurant, The Oystercatcher, where the now worn out book is displayed.
That author was none other than J. Kenji López-Alt, an American chef, restaurateur, best-selling cookbook author and New York Times columnist. On July 17, while visiting Whidbey Island, he dined at the restaurant that Kitay recently opened with her partner, Ben Jones.
“It was such an honor to cook for someone who has been so influential in the food world,” Kitay said.
It all started when López-Alt, who lives in Seattle, asked his over 588,000 Instagram followers for advice on where to eat in Coupeville and North Whidbey. Like any food influencer, López-Alt’s posts include a substantial amount of mouth-watering dishes from a variety of businesses he finds while exploring the food scene in Seattle.
Excited by the opportunity to meet one of his inspirations, Jones left a comment inviting him to reserve a table, echoed by many users who recommended Jones and Kitay’s restaurant.
Now, thanks to the comments, López-Alt’s Instagram food rainbow has welcomed colorful dishes from The Oystercatcher and Captain Whidbey Inn — a restaurant and hotel located just outside of Coupeville.
“Really fantastic meal at @the_oystercatcher in Coupeville today. They were so accommodating and kind, especially with our kids, and the food was outstanding,” he wrote. “Many people recommended this place to me, so thank you, it was spot on.”
Some of the dishes López-Alt and his family ordered include oysters and mignonette, a beet salad with “some incredible local raspberries” and goat cheese, coho salmon belly “with skin so crispy and fatty it almost tasted like bacon,” and strawberry-rhubarb compote.
“It was definitely encouraging to know that someone who we really admire in the industry liked it,” Kitay said.
After López-Alt’s post, Kitay and Jones noticed The Oystercatcher’s followers had increased, a testament to his impact and the influencing power of social media. Some users even shared their intention to try the business after reading his positive review.
Two days later, the López-Alts paid a visit to the Captain Whidbey Inn.
Their dinner, which earned a 10/10 vote from the famed chef, included mussels and clams, a lingcod brandade, and “the best marmalade,” as he wrote on Instagram.
Eric Wright, general manager at the hotel and restaurant, said he is glad the business was acknowledged for its locally sourced ingredients.