News of chef Jason Stratton's sudden announcement to immediately step down from his post at Spinasse, Artusi, and Vespolina took a lot of people by surprise yesterday. Stratton has been a much-heralded chef, especially for his work at Spinasse. In fact, Stratton is currently nominated for a James Beard Award for his Northern Italian cuisine there.
Eater caught up with the chef to find out more. Stratton was candid and upbeat, essentially saying that, after seven years at Spinasse, he is simply tapped out.
"That's a long time to put in anywhere," he said.
"Once you get to a certain point, the creative process gets a little more difficult because you don’t really feel like you have a full charge in you. I thought it was time for a sabbatical. Work on some art, do some reading, do some traveling and kind of just focus on me for a little bit. That’s the long and short of it."
It probably didn't help Stratton's energy levels that he recently relaunched his downtown Spanish restaurant, Aragona, as Italian-influenced Vespolina when it became clear the restaurant wasn't succeeding among a tourist-heavy audience. As Capitol Hill Seattle reports, things haven't been smooth with the newly-launched Vespolina; Stratton and the restaurant's holding company owe an $89,000 settlement following a lawsuit last year by Dolan Built, which contests it was shorted $172,953 for the restaurant's build out. CHS says that as of earlier this month, Dolan Built hasn't been able to collect on that settlement.
Stratton also told Eater that his partner has been living in Spain for the last several months, "and it just got to a point where I was considering all of my options and was just like, 'Hey I could be here working through winter doing the same old same old or I could be hanging out in Spain.' So when it came down to it it was a pretty easy choice for me. I also just think I’m ready for a change." Stratton says his plans involve sunny beaches and "trashy novels." Fair enough.
Though he says it's too early for him to start thinking about next steps, Stratton didn't have an air of finality to his voice. In fact, the Seattle native said, "I’ll be around. There’s a lot of people lamenting the fact that it’s done but all of the people that are at Spinasse and Vespolina and Artusi are incredible pros so they’re going to continue to do awesome stuff, and now I’ll actually be able to sit down and enjoy it. Seattle is my home and I think it’s changing so quickly that it’s an exciting place to be right now." Still, he hinted he wants to do some exploring: "The world is large and there’s opportunity in lots of places."
Effective yesterday, Stuart Lane, who for the past two years has worked along side Stratton as Chef de Cuisine at Spinasse and Artusi, moves to head chef. The press release announcing Stratton's departure did not mention who would be heading up Vespolina.