Breaking Bread with Pioneer Square Pantry
When you invite their quaint and functional coasters, aprons and placemats into your home, you’re not only supporting a small business that builds connections across oceans and industries (the items we’re carrying are an exclusive collaboration with a design studio in Japan)—you’re also creating a reminder for yourself to slow down and savor life’s quiet moments and simple pleasures.
Keep reading for a Q&A with Eva Soroken and Kylen McCarthy, the creative culinary duo behind the brand—plus mouthwatering, edible inspiration from Chef Kylen.
Editor’s note: The duo behind Pioneer Square Pantry is so in tune that they even answered our interview questions in tandem! Eva told us via email: “Our responses are a collaborative effort between Kylen and me. We were on the road this afternoon, picking up honey in the Willamette Valley (plus wine tasting on a quiet Monday afternoon…definitely check out Archery Summit winery if you get a chance), so all answers are a combo of his ideas and mine.”
[Photos up top: Left by Lilly Tsen; right by Melissa Morgan Walbridge.]
[Eva and Kylen in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. Photo: Lilly Tsen.]
THE THREAD: Between your clothing and accessories collaborations and the foodie items [available at selected Nordstrom stores] that Kylen creates, Pioneer Square Pantry seems to wear a lot of hats. How would you describe your mission?
EVA & KYLEN OF PIONEER SQUARE PANTRY: “We started the project as a creative concept that we used to bridge various industries and collaborate with like-minded individuals, using food and lifestyle as the language to overcome cultural barriers. Transplanting the food movement existing in the Pacific Northwest and networking with small agricultural communities in western Japan gave us the opportunity to define our project within the Tokyo marketplace.”
[Eva directed this inviting vignette at Seattle’s Ace Hotel, showcasing the Mint Designs print that appears on our exclusive Pioneer Square Pantry products. Photo: Melissa Morgan Walbridge.]
What was your inspiration for the products you created exclusively for Pop-In@Nordstrom: TMRW TGTHR?
E & K: “The products were a collaborative effort with a highly respected Japanese design label, Mint Designs. We wanted the focus to remain around food, so we designed a table setting and an apron to reinforce the connection between similar mind-sets in different industries.”
[Tools of the trade. Japanese-inspired indigo is Pioneer Square Pantry’s signature color. Photo: Jim Henkens.]
You two divide your time between Tokyo and Seattle—do you see a connection between the two?
E & K: “Through our travels, we’ve been able to take inspiration from both places and filter those ideas into our project. We chose Japanese indigo as our core color, because its richness reminded us of Seattle and the surrounding area. We’ve imparted a Japanese design aesthetic into our products and feel fortunate to be able to build a bridge between the two cultures.”
What are your current obsessions—food, style or otherwise?
EVA: “Given the demanding routine of consistent traveling between New York, Paris, Milan, London, L.A. and Tokyo, I’m finding more of a need to create a comfortable home environment in keeping both an apartment in Tokyo and a domestic residence within the U.S. I continue to find solace in defining a home where I can relax when I’m not forced to be on the road. I like to surround myself with artwork from friends that I’ve met during my travels, as well as beautiful pottery to complement the experience of eating Kylen’s food.”
[Photo: Melissa Morgan Walbridge, who serves as Ace Hotel Seattle’s creative ambassador.]
Kylen, same question—current obsessions?
KYLEN: “I can’t readily admit to having an obsession, but I will say that I’ve been drawn into the coffee world within the past couple years. Every city I find myself in, I’m always seeking out the most revered coffee shops and roasters. As of recently, I was introduced to a friend’s spot in Manhattan: a small Japanese café, pouring only siphon from respected roasters in the U.S. As far as food, I’ve continued to pursue interests in traditional Japanese fermentation and have been working a lot with various forms of koji and inoculated rice bran.”
[Chef Kylen, hard at work.]
What’s on the horizon for Pioneer Square Pantry?
E & K: “We’ve recently been investing more time in Brooklyn and are excited by the opportunity to work with some East Coast designers and artisans while imparting our Northwest and Japanese influences. Both of us originally being from the East Coast, it feels good to be putting time and energy into projects that have roots in the Northeast.
“We’ve been approached with a couple opportunities in New York involving store openings and restaurant consultation. We’ve been collaborating with Kinfolk Studios in Williamsburg on a couple different products. We’ve worked with Stumptown Coffee since launching our brand, selling collaborative jars at their locations in Seattle and Portland; Stumptown New York is now on board to collaborate with us on catering events and private dinners in the coming months.
“We also have a home decor project in development with a Japanese label, designing unique pieces in our aesthetic and launching an event around the collection. This is scheduled for a February debut.”
[If you’ve been to Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, you’ll recognize this wall. Photo: Lilly Tsen.]
Why do you think food is important to the human experience? What powers does it have?
E & K: “Food is a relevant cultural measurement that defines a place in time. It’s impressive to watch food as an element of growth, and how vast its influences are spread (i.e., Alice Waters). It has the power to harness and gather while transcending cultural barriers. It becomes a universal language spoken in all corners of the world.”
— — —
You’ve heard Eva’s and Kylen’s philosophy on food. Here it is in action:
Cured sockeye with soured beets | Whey-fed country ham
Chef Kylen’s naturally leavened sourdough
Toast with salted cod butter | Chef Kylen’s lardo and winter brassicas
Dandelion greens with cured pork shoulder
Boudin blanc and roasted onions | Vinegar-cured anchovies
[Food photos by Jim Henkens.]
…As if the photos above weren’t inspiration enough to grab an apron and get in the kitchen, here’s a video, courtesy of Pioneer Square Pantry, depicting Eva, Kylen and friends doing what they do best: sharing a meal.