A couple turns a sprawling Whidbey Island farm into a space for memorable events.
“I HAVE THE best wife,” says chef Vincent Nattress. “When I said, ‘Honey, let’s open a restaurant,’ and ‘Honey, let’s move to Washington and buy a farm,’ she said yes.”
“I like to think we balance each other out,” says his wife, Tyla Jones Nattress. “He is always the one pushing us forward, and I’m the one putting on the brakes when it’s too much.”
They were newlyweds in 2001 when she agreed to open the restaurant, Roux, in St. Helena, Calif. A few years later, both would move on and help relaunch The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena: he as executive chef, she recruiting staff. By then, they had two daughters.
5574 Bayview Road, Langley, Whidbey Island; 360-321-1517; orchardkitchen.com
In 2009, when they bought the farm on Whidbey Island, it was a homecoming for Vincent, whose family moved to Coupeville when he was 9 years old. Maine-born Tyla feels at home there too, “connected to the things of my childhood: the ocean, the amazing seafood, the rural life.” The property in Bayview, near Langley, had nine existing structures, giving them enormous potential and flexibility to create Orchard Kitchen, the catering and event center they envisioned.
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The early days were hectic, Tyla recalls. “Getting the approval from the county, raising the funds and getting the property looking good took over four years. We repainted everything, tore down chain-link fences, excavated a bunch of concrete, built new fences and planted the orchard.”
The oldest structure in the cluster of red buildings, a hay barn built in 1926, is now a private dining space for up to 44. Next to that is the building where they hold cooking classes, host guest chefs and stage their intimate Farmhouse Dinners for some 30 “adventurous omnivores.”
The dinners are held Thursday, Friday and Saturday year-round. They are one-seating-a-night events with a multicourse prix fixe menu ($55-$75 per person). Planning begins on Mondays, once farmer Blake Mennella, of Ebb Tide Produce, furnishes a list of what’s ready to pick that week.
“Luckily, Blake found us right after we bought the property,” Tyla says. “We had a field full of thistles, and now he’s been farming our land for six years.” He sells to the community in addition to growing things…