by Ashley Lodato
Bluebird Grain Farms staff writer
photos courtesy of Maria Hines
For Seattle Chef Maria Hines, food is medicine. The James Beard Award-winning chef, restaurant founder, cookbook author, and climber has long been a food enthusiast, with a childhood spent helping her mother cook on evenings and weekends. But it is only in the past five years that “nutrition became a passion,” she says.
Fueled by an interest in leveraging the nutritional value of the food she brings on climbing trips and expeditions, Hines, along with climbing partner and nutritionist Mercedes Pollmeier, wrote Peak Nutrition: Smart Fuel for Outdoor Adventure–a cookbook that guides athletes through making food part of their athletic plan, fine tuning nutrition, and preparing adventure-friendly snacks and meals.
A 2020 National Outdoor Book Award winner, Peak Nutrition was born of necessity, says Hines. “In all these years, I’ve yet to come across a comprehensive nutritional cookbook that is dedicated to mountain sports. Professional and recreational mountain athletes require proper nutrition to fuel their bodies, minds, and spirits. This book is for outdoor athletes who want to perform at their best.”
Although Peak Nutrition‘s growing popularity will be some consumers’ introduction to Hines, other are familiar with her work as a leader in the restaurant and sustainability community, chiefly as the founder of Tilth Restaurant, which was the second certified organic restaurant in the country, designated by the Oregon Tilth organization, which is a leading certifier, educator and advocate for organic agriculture and products. A casualty of the pandemic, Tilth Restaurant, which was named one of the top 10 best new restaurants in the country by Frank Bruni of the New York Times, closed in October 2020, after 14 years of advancing a farm-to-table focus and “supporting a movement for ethical sourcing,” an Eater Seattle article says (read more about the closing of Tilth Restaurant HERE).
During Tilth’s tenure, Hines saw positive change in Northwest diners’ commitment to locally, sustainably, and ethically grown food–“we’ve turned the corner as far as you now see more organic and local in box stores,” she says–but notes that “most people will still choose cheap over organic and local, unfortunately.”
A San Diego, CA, native, Hines moved to the Northwest because “San Diego didn’t have a strong culinary scene.” For Hines, Seattle was a gateway to the Methow Valley, and Mazama, which she discovered while climbing, hiking, paddling, biking, and skiing. “The valley is so special and the community is even more special,” she says. Hines’ love of Mazama inspired her nutritional coaching business, Mazama Nutrition, which “helps clients make meaningful changes in [their] eating habits and fitness.”
The Methow Valley was also where Hines discovered Bluebird Grain Farms and its products, through a connection with Chef John Sundstrom, owner and chef at Seattle’s Lark Restaurant. “Chef John introduced me to Bluebird Grain Farms and I’ve been using the products for 16 years now,” Hines says. “My fave is making farro risotto!” She uses, of course, Bluebird Grain Farms’ Organic Whole Grain Emmer Farro.
Hines has been featured in regional and national press, from Edible Seattle to the Huffington Post to the New York Times. But she retains a local, community-oriented perspective, supporting and advising organizations like Mary’s Place (shelter for women, children, and families), PCC Farmland Trust (farmland preservation), and Fresh Bucks (food equity). Hines believes that “every human being should have the right to afford and access safe, healthy, sustainable food and environments.”
“Community is the foundation of food,” Hines writes, “and food is the foundation of community.”
For more information about Chef Maria Hines, Peak Nutrition, and Mazama Nutrition, visit Hines’ website.