Lauding Williams for leading the “incredible Canlis kitchen team” through the restaurant’s many COVID-19 experiments — including turning the bastion of fine dining into a drive-in movie theater, a drive-through burger joint, a pop-up bagel shop, a dinner delivery service and more — the announcement relates that the chef will move on in two months.
Williams says he’s not yet ready to discuss details, but that his “long dreamed of” new restaurant will be in Seattle.
“Restaurants have been decimated by COVID-19, but I am optimistic about their next act,” Williams says. “We have an opportunity and responsibility to improve upon them, rebuilding in more just and humane ways.” Williams speaks of “reimagining the restaurant industry,” while also professing gratitude “for the gift of space to grow and create freely inside of an institution” during the past six years.
Williams became Canlis’s sixth executive chef at age 29, coming west from the job of executive sous chef at Brooklyn gourmet pizza spot Roberta’s and its adjoining double-Michelin-starred Blanca. He’d met a friend-of-a-friend who happened to be co-owner Brian Canlis, who happened to be looking for a chef. In an interview after arriving, he pledged to make the menu at Seattle’s longest-running, most revered high-end restaurant “seasonal, inspired and relevant.”
“Knowing that everyone knows of Canlis here is kind of cool,” Williams said in 2015. “It’s also daunting. It definitely has a special place in Seattle … very few restaurants have the type of history that this restaurant has.” He went on to win the James Beard award for Best Chef: Northwest while at Canlis in 2019.
Now Williams says that he’s found a home here, and that he’s “eager to create something with and for Seattle.”
Canlis expresses support of Williams’ endeavor as well as hope for the deeply troubled restaurant industry, stating, “We believe it’s a year to open restaurants, new and old.” Amid the turmoil, “It’s time to build a better, stronger, and more caring industry,” Canlis says.
And the search for Williams’ replacement is on: “If you think you’re up for the job, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”