Over the past two decades, Lark has quietly trained up a critical mass of talented chefs and other industry pros. So it’s fitting that the restaurant will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year with a series of dinner collaborations that will reunite some notable alums.
Chef and co-owner John Sundstrom sent up the Northwest cuisine version of the bat signal (hopefully it’s shaped like a geoduck) and summoned chefs like Evan Leichtling of Off Alley, longtime Cafe Juanita chef de cuisine Lauren Thompson, and baking savant Ben Campbell. Anyone missing Sawyer will be jazzed to see chef Mitch Mayers will be in the kitchen for the October dinner. Similarly, fans of the former Little Uncle can revisit its magic with cofounders Wiley Frank and Poncharee Kounpungchart.
Since reopening with a new menu format last year, the restaurant has done a few smaller, omakase-style dinners up in its mezzanine and enjoyed the vibe, says Sundstrom. As he and co-owner Kelly Ronan pondered how to mark 20 years in a business not exactly built for longevity, their thoughts turned to all the people in their collective professional past.
"You try to create an environment where people will stay more than the typical amount," Sundstrom said when I asked him the (admittedly corny) question of how his kitchen ended up being such an influential training ground. “We wanted to do something super fun, and wanted people to come back and see their own buddies.”
The imprint on Seattle’s food scene isn’t limited to the kitchen. Ronan, who runs the front of house, instilled her hospitality ethos in staff members like Rachel Marshall and Kate Opatz, who went on to open Montana and Nacho Borracho (together), not to mention Rachel’s Ginger Beer and La Dive (separately). The duo will return to do beverage service for a dinner in April. Marshall started making ginger beer in the kitchen at Licorous, the cocktail bar that Lark’s owners once ran next door to their original location. Little Uncle began as a popup here, too.
Six dinners scheduled throughout 2023 pair two chefs—“a little bit grouped by era,” says Sundstrom—to fashion a menu all their own. These will happen upstairs, with capacity for just 40 people. Email [email protected] to purchase tickets. Hopefully it doesn't devolve into a Taylor Swift situation.
To scan the schedule below is to remember how much of Lark’s DNA currently informs our current food scene. The restaurant will celebrate its official 20th birthday (one year from today, as it happens) with some sort of proper party. Meanwhile, these dinners will book fast...
Even Leichtling of Off Alley (Lark 2008–2012) and Jon Mix, chef de cuisine at Le Pichet (Lark 2008–2012).
Little Uncle duo Wiley Frank and Poncharee Kounpungchart (Lark/Licorous 2008–2011) will cook with David Gurewitz (Lark 2007–2010, 2015), the chef/co-owner of La Dive. Fellow La Dive partner Kate Opatz and Rachel Marshall (both Lark 2006–2010) will do beverages.
Lauren Thompson, chef de cuisine of Café Juanita (Lark 2004–2007 and 2010–2012) and Anny Hunt (Lark 2004–2008), who worked with Sundstrom even back at the W Hotel.
Stephanie Maiers of Fandango and Flying Fish (Lark 2003–2005) with Lark sous chef Sophia Rubin-Davis (2018–current)
Joseph Margate, currently corporate chef of the HEI Hotels (Lark 2004–2007) and Lark’s opening sous chef, Jason Kagihara (2003–2005) who now lives in Hawaii.
Former Sawyer chef/owner Mitch Mayers (Lark 2013–2018) with Ben Campbell of Ben’s Bread (Lark 2012–2016)