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Image: Andrew Waits

Our June issue features our annual Next Hot Chefs roundup, in which we chose five up-and-comers (under 40, who don’t yet own their own restaurant) whom we predict will be tomorrow’s household names.

One stands out from the others as particularly unlikely. Amid the chefs de cuisine and sous chefs on the list is Spencer Coplan: line cook, two-time culinary school dropout, all of 25 years old. Who we found out during the vetting process was, well…fired by the first chef who’d told us about him.

“Spencer’s a great chef, he has a great palate, he could do pretty much anything we threw at him,” said Derek Ronspies, chef-owner of Le Petit Cochon, when I called him earlier this spring to see what he thought of his former right hand. “And yeah, I fired him.”

The story was all too familiar: Youthful indiscretion, a statement one party remembers as a miscommunication and the other calls a lie, was behind Ronspies’s reluctant decision to terminate. “He’s awesome,” Ronspies told me, but it ultimately came down to trust. Coplan remembers his time at Le Petit Cochon fondly. “We were quite the duo. The two of us, we were going to take over the world.”

Coplan landed on his feet, snagging a post on the line at Johnathan Sundstrom’s new Lark, where Sundstrom praises Coplan’s talent, his humility, his attitude. “He’s someone you can trust to get it right,” Sundstrom says, suggesting that perhaps someone is aging out of his trust issues.

As for Coplan, he loves his current gig—and we here at Seattle Met gave him high marks for why. “At a lot of restaurant people have attitudes…they’re better than you, or they want to outdo you. But at Lark it’s not about what you know, it’s about what we know. One cocky guy is not gonna make the restaurant hum; we’re successful as a unit. It’s totally chef [Sundstrom] who sets that tone, and the sous chefs reinforce it.”

Sounded like a Next Hot Chef to us.