Seattle’s historic gourmet restaurant Canlis just got a groundbreaking new leader in the kitchen.
Aisha Ibrahim will take over the helm as head chef at the famous Seattle restaurant, the New York Times reported on Monday. Ibrahim will be the seventh female chef in the restaurant’s 70-year history and the first female chef to also bear the title.
The new hiring for the award-winning restaurant comes after Chef Brady Williams announced that he would be stepping down from his position in February to open his own restaurant.
Ibrahim was born in the Philippines and grew up in West Virginia. He attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco. She worked as a sous-cook in Manres, California, a renowned three-Michelin-star restaurant, and followed this experience with international stays in Spain and Thailand. She had planned to open her own delicatessen company in Bangkok, plans that did not materialize after the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In a profile with The Times, Ibrahim explained how she was drawn to Seattle because of its natural abundance of land and sea, and also appreciated Canlis’ work culture.
“Fine dining in the United States has burned my generation of leaders to the point where we ask, ‘Do I really want to do this?'” Ibrahim said. “But Canlis is largely a people-first program. I’ve been on the block in terms of working in high-end restaurants, and that’s not common at all.”
After a successful Zoom interview, Ibrahim flew from Bangkok to Seattle to meet with owners Mark and Brian Canlis and prepare a seven-course meal. While they were certainly elaborated in courses, what struck them was the simplicity of their style.
“Their meal was an invitation. It wasn’t pliable or ostentatious,” Mark Canlis told the Times.
And Ibrahim isn’t the only new addition to the Canlis crew: her partner, Samantha Beaird, has also been hired by the restaurant as a research and development chef.
Like many other restaurants in the Emerald City, Canlis had to adapt to the changing restaurant scene amid the pandemic. But they’ve made it every step of the way with innovation, creating a yurt village for outdoor dining in the winter, a crab hut, drive-in theater, burger drive-through, and even a community college with online courses.
Their final pandemic spot is a smokehouse-inspired establishment where tree houses dine on the rooftop of the restaurant with views of Lake Union and the Cascade Mountains.
Reservations for Camp Canlis sold out quickly, but residents don’t have to wait too long to get a foretaste: the owners expressed hope that the restaurant will reopen for indoor use sometime in July, where Ibrahim will feature her new menu Emphasis will be placed on indigenous ingredients and the Asian culinary influences of the region.