Katherine Anderson, co-owner of The London Plane, and New York chef Ned Baldwin grew up together in Seattle. On May 1, he returned to prepare a four-course feast at her restaurant.
LET’S BE DIRECT
Katherine Alberg (now Anderson) and Ned Baldwin grew up in the same Seattle neighborhood in the 1970s and ’80s. She was friends with the cool skateboard kids. He was an outgoing, adventurous redhead. They were in the same class together at Lakeside School. She, a strident feminist and scholar. He, a football player who was into fashion. During summers, she would sell cherries from her uncle’s orchard in Royal City, and he would paint houses. They ventured back east for college (he to Bennington, she to Harvard), attended each other’s weddings and stayed in touch — through births of children, moves and career changes — only to both end up in the restaurant world.
IN THE MIDDLE OF IT
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After college, Anderson worked in journalism and publishing before turning to landscape architecture in hopes of reconnecting with nature. She returned to Harvard for her master’s degree; moved back to Seattle; and got a job at Mithun, an architecture firm.
In 2008, she planted flowers at her father’s farm in Carnation (her grandfather Thomas Alberg bought the property in the 1950s, now called Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center) and sold blooms out of her station wagon, then opened her own shop in 2010: Marigold and Mint in Melrose Market, next to Matt Dillon’s restaurant Sitka & Spruce.
“Matt (Dillon) and I quickly recognized that we had a shared aesthetic,” Anderson says. “His was about food, and mine was about nature.” They became business partners and opened The London Plane together in 2014. Some of the restaurant’s herbs and flowers come from the Alberg family farm.
Meanwhile, Baldwin graduated from Bennington with a degree in ceramics and philosophy and moved back to Seattle, where he and a friend began buying and renovating houses. “My life has always been, am I a white-collar person, or do I work with my hands?” he says. “My hands won.”
Eager to pursue art, he went to Yale and earned an MFA in sculpture, then opened his own studio in the South Bronx. While pursuing a challenging career as a studio artist, his favorite hobby grew: eating, cooking and holding dinner parties. This passion eventually led to jobs in some of New York’s best kitchens, such as Alain Ducasse, Jean-Georges and Prune. After four years at Prune, he ventured out on his own.
THE MAIN EVENT
Baldwin opened Houseman in Hudson Square in 2015. It is named after the Norwegian word husmannskost, which translates literally to “house man’s food,” or the traditional Norwegian food that your parents might have cooked. “At Houseman, we cook less traditionally and far more multiculturally, but we pride ourselves on creating menus and experiences that feel personal and familial,” Baldwin says.
As co-owner of The London Plane, Anderson recently launched a dinner series called One Night Stand with visiting chefs. “We wanted to build community, attract more people to Pioneer Square in the evening and connect chefs in a unique way.”
Anderson and Baldwin agree that something magical happens when people sit down to enjoy the same meal at the same time.
On May 1, Baldwin came back to Seattle to cook at The London Plane.
“I never thought I’d have a restaurant and that my old pal would be cooking there,” Anderson says. For his part, Baldwin was a bit anxious. “I’ve cooked for people like Alain Ducasse, Meryl Streep and other greats, but I was more nervous to cook for Seattle.”
Despite the anticipated May Day protests, these two childhood friends created a remarkable dining experience in Pioneer Square. Sixty-five eager diners gathered at communal tables amid purple lilacs, dogwood branches and poppies.
Baldwin rolled out an innovative menu in four courses of generous shared plates. The bluefish and the head cheese were sourced from, and made by, Baldwin, on the East Coast. The purple broccolini, asparagus and morels came from the University District farmers market. A unique tapestry of East and West coasts, of history and talent, of friendship and food.