Eric Johnson could have started a restaurant just about anywhere, but he chose Capitol Hill for his upcoming French-Vietnamese concept Stateside. "I've been pretty lucky to work with a bunch of relatively well-known chefs and some not so much. I've learned all over the place," Johnson tells Eater. After working with Daniel Boulud and at Jean-Georges in New York, Johnson moved to Paris to open Jean-Georges' Market. A couple of years later he opened Jean-Georges in Shanghai.
But after ten years of living overseas, family connections brought him to Seattle to set down roots. "I've been visiting here my whole life to see family and go backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula. I've always been saying I want to move to Seattle as the permanent choice. I kind of took the long way around but I finally made it," he says. "I didn't really want to be a permanent ex-pat, as fun as all the traveling and adventure is. I said 'if I don't move to Seattle now I'm never going to do it.' I just bought a ticket and made it happen."
Johnson has lived in Seward Park for the past three years. "I got to the point in my career where I was either going to come back to the states or stay abroad permanently. There was a bit of reverse culture shock to be sure, but in a good way," he says. "I'm really happy with my choice."
The chef spent about four months scouting spaces around the city for Stateside and says that while several "would have been fantastic," Capitol Hill was his first choice. "It's such a hub of dining," Johnson says. "We really just found the perfect place." The restaurant design is being finalized now, but Johnson is planning for 70 seats in the dining room and space for 12 at the bar. Outdoor dining is also in the works. CHS has details about the space at 300 E Pike near Victrola and Six Arms.
Johnson is currently in "full recipe development mode" for Stateside, and while he isn't ready to share specific menu items just yet he has plenty to share about the concept. "The basis is in Vietnamese food," he says. "Both geographically, culinarily, and otherwise Vietnam is a good central point for all of my experiences. It's the natural in between point of French and Chinese food. I really feel like Vietnamese food borrows some of the best aspects of those cuisines, the fresh herbs, the acidity. And of course it has spectacular dishes that is all its own. So we're going to concentrate on Vietnamese, but borrow a bit from the natural partners of Vietnamese cuisine."
While he's "most passionate" about the cooking, Johnson says he's interested in the complete process of starting a new restaurant. "The first thing you have to do is surround yourself with the people that you need to get it done. I can make the food but I can't do the architectural drawings or draw up the LLC agreement. There are many, many other people you have to find that a.) want to help you and b.) are qualified to help you. That extends also to staff, suppliers. It's a more global time management issue. Being a chef in a kitchen is very minute-to-minute, you know, you have to get your carrots peeled by 6 p.m. when the guests show up. But it's thinking on a different time scale."
Johnson is planning to open Stateside's doors this autumn.
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