The search is over for a new head chef at Seattle fine dining destination Canlis. The iconic restaurant just announced that Aisha Ibrahim will take the reins in the kitchen, per reports in the New York Times and Seattle Times. She replaces Brady Williams, who left in February to start his own restaurant.
Ibrahim is the seventh chef in the 70-year history of Canlis, and the restaurant’s first female executive chef. Her resume includes a role as sous chef at California’s three-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa. She later grew her career internationally, cooking for chef Eneko Atxa at Azurmendi in Spain and sister restaurant Aziamendi in Thailand.
Seattle’s rich local ingredients appealed to Ibrahim, per the New York Times, and her stamp on the menu at Canlis will dive into the region’s microclimates, indigenous cooking, and Asian influences. For co-owner Brian Canlis, Ibrahim’s test meal — featuring dishes like caramelized scallops with whipped koji cream — was the last component of a long process.
“We set out to find was a leader who could help rebuild a broken industry,” he tells Eater. “There’s often a lot of toxicity in kitchen cultures. We want to continue to set and continue to push a whole different standard of how people and humans can be valued in kitchen and in restaurants in general.”
Canlis recently increased its minimum wage to $20 per hour, so that every employee in the front and back of house starts at the same rate.
“There’s one team here. We wanted a chef who was into that type of thinking, who was into not just putting your ego on a plate, but actually trying to help inspire an entire industry,” Canlis says. “At the end, after dozens of hours of interviews and multiple days together, we can also find out if she can cook. Of course, she can cook. Her resume is insane. It’s like getting a football player who’s played on multiple Superbowl teams and wondering if they can throw the football.”
In a turn, Canlis’ worker-first culture also convinced Ibrahim to take on the role. “Canlis is very much a people-first program. I’ve been around the block in terms of working at high-end restaurants, and that’s not at all common,” she told the New York Times.
Like many restaurants in the last year, Canlis has changed its service format many times during the COVID-19 pandemic, trying everything from parking lot yurts to drive-thru burgers. Ibrahim will lead Canlis into the post-pandemic future, hopefully debuting her menu in July 2021 — depending on Seattle and Washington state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“We’ll be opening up a different restaurant than we closed a year ago — and thank goodness, because we are different people and the industry is different and the world is different. We don’t want to go back, we want to go forward,” Canlis told Eater.
- Canlis Hires Its First Female Executive Chef [NYT]
- Canlis hires Aisha Ibrahim as its first female executive chef [Seattle Times]
- Head Canlis Chef Will Leave at the End of February to Open His Own Restaurant [Eater Seattle]
- Canlis Offers Online Classes, Cafeteria Food, and Beer Pong Kits for Its New ‘College’ [Eater Seattle]
- What It’s Like to Get a Drive-Thru Burger at Fine-Dining Icon Canlis [Eater Seattle]