As of the end of December, Delicatus and Chef Aaron Willis have parted ways. The Pioneer Square sandwich destination gained a reputation for producing elevated sandwiches with riffs on classic recipes and their own originals. But Willis tells Eater that he was let go after an event around the holidays.
For the last four years, Chef Willis has led the kitchen in branching out into their own line of deli meats, called Wooden Table, as well as into happy hour and dinner service and special events at their affiliated events space, The Kitchen by Delicatus.
Owners Derek Shankland and Mike Klotz tell Eater that changes in goals for the company are responsible for the shift change. They responded for comment, saying “We made a business decision that required a change in kitchen leadership. Derek Shankland, Co-Owner and Director of Operations, will be stepping in during the interim to re-focus our staff at Delicatus on our mission of making the best sandwiches in Seattle. He will also be retooling our Dinner Series at The Kitchen by Delicatus with a much stronger focus on our local culinary community with more Guest Chef opportunities along with many co-promotional events with the bounty of local, artisan products made in our back yard.”
Shankland has cooked alongside Willis at several special events, and has led the kitchen as Executive Chef at various times throughout the restaurant’s existence, including the annual Slovenian Dinner.
For his part, Willis is looking forward to branching out into new projects. “We parted company so they could focus on moving forward with 2016,” he tells Eater. “In my four years, I enjoyed creating new menu items and developing the Wooden Table product line, as well as catering events, doing bar mitzvahs, and more.” He doesn’t yet have a new project nailed down, but has already gotten calls from at least one popular Seattle restaurant for consultation work.