Filipino chef now runs the kitchen at Canlis restaurant – KIRO 7 news Seattle
There is a new executive chef at Canlis.
The renowned restaurant is betting its future on its first chef, who is neither white nor male. This leader breaks barriers and finds a home as western Washington becomes real.
It’s just an ordinary Friday in the kitchen of this 70-year-old gourmet destination, but Aisha Ibrahim is nothing ordinary.
Ibrahim, Filipino, is Canlis’ new chef.
He was asked if this fact was important.
âIt’s important,â Ibrahim said, âYeah, I think you own it on so many levels. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, you’re Filipino. You are weird. You are brunette. You are a woman.’ I’m like “yeah”. âYou are an immigrant. I’m like ‘yes’. All these things. All of these things are important. Because it’s something I’ve really grown to be proud of.
Ibrahim was cooking in Bangkok, Thailand, regularly receiving and turning down job offers, and even planning to open his own restaurant.
Then the pandemic hit and Canlis called.
âI tried to do due diligence on them, and I asked around,â Ibrahim said. “And I couldn’t find anything negative about the program, which is so rare in gastronomy.”
They also did their due diligence, while interviewing other predominantly male, predominantly white chefs.
Mark Canlis says the choice essentially fell on a seven-course meal that Ibrahim prepared for his team and trusted his instincts.
âSo you’re kind of like wrestling with, a bit,â Canlis said. âAnd pretty quickly you fall in love. You’re like, ‘It’s just good. I don’t need to separate it. I love that. ”
It was, he said, like a courtship of several months.
Ibrahim was the only leader to whom they offered the post.
âAnd we were really hoping she would say yes,â he laughs.
There is a lot of evidence that Canlis is not the restaurant it once was, with the pandemic having tested its owners like the rest of us. So maybe it’s appropriate that they turn their future over to something, to someone new.
âThe restaurant that we are opening, I consider it a whole new restaurant than the one that we closed,â Canlis said.
A restaurant now in the hands of a 35-year-old chef who cut her teeth in the kitchen world, who happens to be an immigrant from the Philippines.
âWill it necessarily be visible in food?â Ibrahim asked. âI don’t know. First I want to express the products of this region and some cultural influences to reflect that this is a gateway city to Asia.
âBeing able to live in an American city with a long history of that. I grew up in West Virginia. I did not have access to this. It’s pretty amazing to me that there were Filipino businesses in the 1950s here. It’s exciting for me.
An excitement that will soon be on full display in his new restaurant.
Canlis never came to a complete stop during the pandemic. The owners have turned to take-out, serving burgers, offering alfresco dining, all to stay afloat.
Now they plan to reopen their traditional dining room on July 1.
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