[Photo: Lecosho's Matt and Jill / S. Pratt]
Matt Janke will always be remembered for Matt's in the Market, the iconic Pike Place restaurant he left in all but name in 2008. One year ago, Janke and business partner Jill Buchanan opened Lecosho(the Chinook word for pig), steps away from his former restaurant. In this interview, they talk about opening a new restaurant, a particularly stinging negative review, and the changes brought about by a new chef.
Any notable changes in the past year? Jill Buchanan: We’ve lightened up a little bit. I think our name leads people to think it’s all meat but we have a pretty balanced menu. It’s more northwest, seasonal ingredients. Matt Janke: I personally never wanted it to be meat-dominated I’ve got to eat here every day. I have never liked the heavy use of creams and thinks like that food should be consumable and digestible and I’m happy we toned that down a little bit. It was definitely a misunderstanding. I get it, we call ourselves 'the pig.'
JB: Well, it’s more of a Northwest name. MJ: Yeah, but nobody ever focuses on that .
Do you see more locals or tourists coming in? JB: We've done some reaching out to the hotels, so we have seen some business diners, but not so much the general waterfront tourists. We get lots of locals, people that live downtown. And there are more things opening, which is exciting. I think it’s great that downtown is having a little Renaissance. Our downtown area seemed like a ghost town for a little bit.
How has Lauri Carter’s arrival impacted the menu? MJ: Obviously, obviously it has to change. But we’re still very much on hand. JB: It’s very collaborative.
MJ: It was good that Lauri had worked for me for years. JB: We were actually looking to have her originally and the timeline didn’t work out. She’s doing a lot of the fish dishes, and a lot of the lighter elements. MJ: Even something as old-school, well, old school one year into it, the porchetta has some flavors in it now that she brought in that makes it more vibrant.
The lentils seemed to pop up in several reviews and blogger write-ups. Will you always have them on the menu? MJ: I like to eat them, so probably.
Speaking of reviews, how was that process? JB: I think the Stranger review was a little eye opening, as far as lightening up the menu. MJ: I’m a little more accustomed to this than Jill was, and I think the Stranger review was the first one out. [to Jill] It threw you off. You asked, ‘are they all going to be like this?’ There was a lot of stuff in the Stranger review that we used as instruction.
JB: But it did feel a little bit written like a hit piece. MJ: It was written like a large board meant to strike us in the head. I think public response to it was pretty good. We had some people that were on their way to go see Michael Moore and they stopped here for dinner first because they said they wanted to get both sides of the argument.
How was opening Lecosho different than your experience at Matt’s? MJ: It doesn’t relate to Matt’s in the Market. It more relates to other consulting I used to do. This was a smoother opening than expanding Matt’s in the Market. A lot of that had to do with the timing. Matt’s was after that huge windstorm we had. Even though we opened a few months later, the power companies were still fixing their grid and it took us a long time to get stuff. It was a different time in the city, with a lot of construction going on, so we had to vie for position with a lot of other people with permits. And doing something in a historic building on the third floor is never easy. There was a lot of physical demands on that construction; this one was easier.
Any other significant changes? MJ: We’re actually about to lose a staffer for the first time, besides Mike [Easton]. He’s an actor and he’s moving on because he made a career choice based on that. That’s actually the first of our floor staff that we are losing. Well, due to his own volition.
What do you think of the Harbor Steps location one year in? JB: I think not being as visible is challenging, so we definitely have to keep up on our visits to the concierges. MJ: Sometimes people can’t comprehend where we are when they are trying to get here.
Any thoughts of another restaurant? MJ: It’s always been the game plan to do a couple things. JB: It may even be marketing the charcuterie. MJ: If we do another place we wouldn’t attempt to do Lecosho 2. We’d find another spot that lends itself to something else. JB: We’ve talked a lot about doing another project that’s more pubby.