SEATTLE — We're used to the finished product, the perfectly prepared meal, the perfectly appointed table. But what does it take to get there? Let's go behind the scenes for a never before seen view of Canlis, just before the doors open.
At Seattle's premier restaurant, which opened in 1950, the little things are big.
They get crackin' early on the 8-dozen eggs for 50 soufflés. Bakers arrive at 5 AM.
But in the kitchen, they talk to each other.
“It gets you sorta amped up. It's like the pre-game huddle,” said Mark Canlis. “Is there pressure. Maybe? Does everyone want to be there? Yeah, like put me in coach!”
Mark Canlis and executive chef Brady Williams, winner of the 2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northwest, lead three daily get-togethers.
They discuss clientele, iron tablecloths, buff counters, check every glass, they pre-taste everything on the menu.
“You spend your whole life waiting for 5:30 in a certain sense,” said Canlis. “It's like all this energy and all this thinking and strategy goes into that front door opening and the first guest walking in.”
They slice, crack and stir like anywhere else, but they focus on their people so they can focus on those they serve.
“It's like going on stage in so many ways,” said Canlis. “And some of that needs to be rehearsed”
There are hugs and smiles in the kitchen that is friendly, not frantic -- even though they're just minutes away from show time.
“Holding each other accountable in a way that is done out of love for each other and not fear of consequence or fear of wrath,” said executive chef Brady Williams. “And I think it creates like a really special culture here unlike any other kitchen I've ever been in.”
And it's not just the kitchen or dining room... The valets outside are world renowned for delivering your car as you walk out without any kind of ticket.
“The entire system is from memory. There are no little secret tickets or secret cameras. It isn't like that. The front door's glass. They can see you coming and they recognize you and go sprinting off to get your car and hopefully have it ready for you by the time you get out,” said Canlis. “The secret is to care and that's a pretty good analogy for the restaurant business.”
All 95 employees are encouraged, required really, to dine in the restaurant, to experience it as a guest would.
“You're in what we call the bubble,” said Canlis. “Or hopefully we put you in the bubble. The bubble is like you don't really understand what is happening around you? You're just like, it's like you're in the zone. Everything is perfect right around the table.”
Everybody has a purpose that points to the ultimate goal.
“Tonight is going to matter to someone in a way you and I can't possibly fathom,” said Canlis.
And when the clock hits 5:30, they're more than ready.
Canlis | Contact: (206) 283-3313. | 2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109.