Canlis Hires Its First Female Executive Chef


Since closing its eating room in March 2020, Canlis has reinvented itself a number of occasions over, shape-shifting from Seattle’s loftiest fine-dining restaurant right into a bagel store, a crab shack and a drive-in movie show.

Now, the restaurant has made one other, extra everlasting change, hiring Aisha Ibrahim as its new government chef. Ms. Ibrahim, 35, is the seventh chef, and the primary girl, to helm the Canlis kitchen in its 70-year historical past. She began work on April 30.

Ms. Ibrahim succeeds Brady Williams, who ended a six-year run at Canlis in February, and who plans to open his personal restaurant in Seattle later this yr.

Canlis opened in 1950 in a hanging midcentury fashionable constructing with views of Lake Union, serving a menu of surf-and-turf classics with a Pacific inflection. In current years, beneath the management of its third-generation homeowners, the brothers Mark and Brian Canlis, it has developed from a beloved native establishment to a participant on the nationwide fine-dining stage. Jason Franey, who arrived from New York City’s Eleven Madison Park as government chef in 2008, revamped the menu in a modernist idiom: extra suave plating, with extra crumbs, foams and emulsions.

Mr. Williams, who introduced a renewed give attention to Asian methods and substances, took over in 2015. In 2017, Canlis received its first James Beard award, for Outstanding Wine Program, beneath the wine and spirits director Nelson Daquip. In 2019, Mr. Williams was named Best Chef: Northwest, and the restaurant obtained the Design Icon Award in celebration of its outstanding dwelling.

In hiring Ms. Ibrahim, Canlis will proceed to look to Asia for culinary inspiration.

Born Zsahleya Aisha Ibrahim within the southern Philippines, Ms. Ibrahim immigrated to West Virginia on the age of six. (She is the fourth government chef at Canlis with Asian heritage.) She attended school on a basketball scholarship, however when an harm ended her sports activities profession, she utilized to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco.

Ms. Ibrahim labored her manner up by Bay Area kitchens to grow to be a sous chef at Manresa, the three-Michelin-star restaurant in Los Gatos, Calif., earlier than shifting to the Basque area of Spain in 2015 to work for the chef Eneko Atxa at Azurmendi. Ms. Ibrahim went on to grow to be chef de delicacies at Aziamendi, Azurmendi’s sister restaurant in southern Thailand.

Before becoming a member of Canlis, she spent two years getting ready to open her personal fine-dining challenge in Bangkok, which was scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Ibrahim’s accomplice, Samantha Beaird, will be part of the employees at Canlis, too, within the newly created place of analysis and growth chef.

Ms. Ibrahim stated that she was drawn to Seattle for the unparalleled high quality of substances from the forests, fisheries and farms of the Pacific Northwest. She plans to spend her time at Canlis exploring the area’s Indigenous substances, the nuances of its microseasons and the town’s historic position as a gateway to Asia.

Ms. Ibrahim admitted to being stunned to search out herself again within the United States, having sworn off the nation’s brutal kitchen tradition for jobs in Spain and Thailand, which have afforded her a extra balanced life-style.

“Fine dining in the United States has burned out my generation of leadership to the point where we’re asking, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ ” she stated. “But Canlis is very much a people-first program. I’ve been around the block in terms of working at high-end restaurants, and that’s not at all common.”

After a pair of Zoom interviews for the job, Ms. Ibrahim flew from Bangkok to Seattle — her second-ever go to to the town — to organize a seven-course meal that sealed the deal. Mark Canlis described her cooking as easy, understated and complex. “Her food was an invitation in,” he stated. “It wasn’t flexing or showmanship.”

The cooks at Canlis have all the time been like honorary members of the family, Mr. Canlis stated, and hiring a brand new one can really feel “like adding a sibling.” Cooking abilities are simply the desk stakes.

“What makes Aisha the best chef for this restaurant has to do with caring for people, leading people and creating a culture,” he stated. “Everyone has a desire to build a better industry, but she’s already living that kind of life, and invested in people in the kind of way that inspires us.”

The management change comes on the heels of a yr that has been essentially the most turbulent, however creatively fertile, within the restaurant’s historical past. Casting about for tactics to maintain their employees employed through the pandemic, the Canlis brothers have busied the crew delivering meals round Seattle, serving burgers and bagels from the restaurant’s parking zone, and internet hosting digital bingo reveals.

Currently, friends can dine on a $145 four-course menu served in 12 non-public yurts (plus one “treehouse,” on the restaurant’s roof), or come for chilly beers, brisket and Frito pie on the Canteen, a counter-service smokehouse arrange within the parking zone. (Reservations for each are at present offered out.) Mr. Canlis stated that he hopes to return to indoor service in July.



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