Shift Change

Here's How Canlis Should Audition Its New Chef

Jason Franey's replacement will need both culinary and codebreaking skills. And probably a cowboy outfit.

By Allecia Vermillion October 27, 2014

Jason Franey and Brian Canlis at the James Beard Awards ceremony in New York this spring. Photo via Canlis's Facebook page.

Big news today: The Brothers Canlis told Eater that chef Jason Franey is leaving their kitchen; the six-year executive chef says he's heading back to northern California (he cooked at San Francisco's Campton Place early in his career) with plans to open a place of his own. 

Franey is a talented guy and this seems like a natural progression. Now the most storied restaurant in Seattle conducts just the sixth chef search in its 63-year history. Franey came here from Eleven Madison Park, and this search will be a national one, too.

The Brothers Canlis, known for their love of scavenger hunts, hidden keys, and general Dan Brown-style intrigue, told Eater that they will conduct their chef search "in a slightly Canlis-y unorthodox way," in an interview process that might involve "laser tag, a road trip with their mother, and a certain amount of game playing."

Mark, Brian—I'mma let you finish, but allow me to offer a few suggestions for your hiring search and general HR onboarding process.

  • Take a cue from the valets and ask prospective chefs to fire every order from memory—no tickets.
  • Giant Cones of Dunshire tournament.
  • Candidates must prepare a five-course meal in the ladies room, where the stalls are larger (and cleaner) than many restaurant kitchens. Preferably while wearing body paint and spandex.
  • Three costume changes, minimum.
  • Hide individual pages of an employment contract around town and conduct a giant scavenger hunt. A chef who can't decipher obscure riddles while retrieving documents scotch taped to the top of Bertha is no Canlis chef.
  • Canlis salad horcrux.
  • Make roving critic Bill Addison come back and eat the actual chef's menu.
  • Best Matthew McConnaughey-as-Rust Cohle impression.

And now, a serious one. The Brothers Canlis have done a remarkable job of balancing Canlis's legacy with their grander ambitions. But the food that best showcased Franey's talents wasn't easy to find—diners who didn't know to specifically ask for the chef's tasting menu would end up ordering the duck and a Canlis salad and wondering why the food doesn't look like this

The restaurant's new chef, whomever he (or she!) may be, should have a vision for bridging the divide between Canlis past and present.



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