Last week, Eastlake Italian institution Serafina celebrated its 25-year anniversary; sibling restaurant Cicchetti was also riding high thanks to the addition of a new chef and a new general manager, both of whom returned to the fold after years away.
Just days later, on July 22, owner Susan Kaufman died of cancer at age 64. It's a stunning loss to the food community, for whom Kaufman was an inspiration.
To its Facebook page, Serafina posted a remembrance from the family about Kaufman, who was born in December 1951 and displayed dauntless entrepreneurial spirit from an early age:
"A natural entrepreneur, she started her first business at 16, selling her handmade purses on Fifth Avenue to Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and eventually to cast members of ‘Hair.'[...]In 1977, Susan's adventurous spirit took her to Juneau, Alaska, where she started with a food cart, then opened three restaurants and managed one during her residence there."
Radio personality and food writer Nancy Leson also shared the family's words on Facebook, along with a personal note:
"Susan Kaufman was a lover of life, and a real mensch. I'm only sorry I didn't get to raise one last glass of wine — and sing a show tune or three — with her before she left us, too soon, today."
For Seattle Weekly, Kaufman's step-son Zach Geballe (who contributes The Bar Code column to the Weekly) reminisces about the profound impact she had on his life:
"The greatest influence Susan had on my life happened at home, though. From the beginning, dinner was the centerpiece of each evening. Made largely from scratch, each meal was served at a table with lit candles and linens, with the lights dimmed to restaurant levels: Susan always cared about ambiance. It was a serious affair, but joyful."
And Seattle Met critic Kathryn Robinson reveals how she became accidentally, unavoidably, personally acquainted with Kaufman after their daughters became schoolmates, but wished she could have gotten even closer with such a vibrant woman:
"I admired her vitality, her talent, her irreverent wit, her frankness; to be honest she was one of those souls for whom I would have loved to ditch my professional ethics in exchange for what would've been a tremendous friendship. Instead it had to be enough to see how beloved she was by virtually everyone else."
In The Seattle Times' obituary, Bethany Jean Clement notes that this doesn't mean the end of Kaufman's legacy:
"Both Serafina and Cicchetti remain open, and a celebration of Kaufman's life will be held there sometime in the next few weeks. The family will be selecting a fund for cancer research for those who would like to make donations in Kaufman's name. More information will be made available on CaringBridge."