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Within the mid-century modern walls of Seattle's Canlis, brothers Mark and Brian honor the legacy of a restaurant that has been in their family for nearly 70 years. Founded by their grandfather, Peter Canlis, Canlis was conceived to be a unique fine dining destination, providing incredible food and hand-to-heart hospitality. In the kitchen, James Beard-nominated chef Brady Williams takes a modern spin on the Japanese-influenced dishes that have come to define Canlis' cuisine. Guided by their core mission, Mark, Brian, Brady and the restaurant team work tirelessly "to live out and grow the idea that it's worth putting other people first." Sponsored by Cacique.

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Transcript

- How to describe Canlis? Canlis is just a restaurant. In so many ways, I think it's also a tradition, a legacy and a family. A lot of people think they know what fine dining is, and to me it's just people serving people. It's not fancy silverware and it's not fancy food. It's the unexpected surprise of feeling cared for. The restaurant was wrapped around the personality, the persona, the largeness of my grandfather, Peter Canlis. It was very much his place. He wanted to be in an emerging city in a town that was kind of coming into its own, and that was Seattle. He was a first generation immigrant. He wanted to prove himself; he wanted to show the world that what his parents had done was worthwhile and it was good. This was his mom, Sito, a remarkable cook. If we have any heritage to cooking, it's through that woman right there. He wanted to do fine dining that was counter cultural. And we've got to put that in context. It was a different era. It's the forties, it's the fifties. White, French, male, stuffy, tuxedos, and he wanted to do nothing of that. He hired all Japanese women. Beautiful, gracious, hospitality oozing from their pores, Japanese women in kimonos. They were serving in the way of their tradition, which was team-style service. It was not something Peter invented, it came natural to them, it was cultural to them, and in powerful ways that's the spirit of this place, even today. Anytime you talk to guests in the dining room they look back fondly on this crazy man who dared to run a restaurant that was different. And then, of course, Mom and Dad, like-- Oh yeah-- In their glory. So you get the seventies. Well they're doing, that's them running the restaurant. Which is what we're trying to do. When it came our turn, we then chose to have the restaurant reflect more the way we wanted to raise a family and live a life. It's when the restaurant went from being about the owner to being about the guest. How do you welcome and love people who are your guest and yet at the same time are strangers? A lot of restaurants today, I think in fine dining, have this chef on a stage, and the guest comes in and revolves around. This is a different kind of place, where we want to put the guest on a stage and see if the entire restaurant can revolve around them. Our grandfather's obsession with being the best and being perfect, and every detail matters, and my parents just love of people and making everyone feel welcome, we're thinking, "Maybe we can do both at the same time." The world-class recognition that we get in this restaurant, and all of the attention, you guys, we're standing on the shoulders of so many people that came before us. I think of a restaurant just like I think of a person. Like it is always becoming; it's alive. And so are the people in it. You don't take it lightly that a hundred employees show up, waiting to pour out their souls for the cause of this place. We have a mission statement at Canlis which is to live out and grow the idea that it's worth putting other people first. Especially it's own employees. When Brady came along, it was like the whole thing just came together. Who he is as a person, the kind of leader he is. What he wants for his people. It isn't just to become great cooks, it's that they actually learn to how to become great people. Tasters up at five o'clock, let's have a great service and keep the promise. Chef! Brady has brought us back to good things that were at Canlis always, historically, and yet sometimes get lost along the way. It's nice to have the trust of the brothers to know that the creative freedom to do more or less whatever we want. But I think in order to move forward you have to know where you come from. One of the cool things that Brady first did was to look at the old menu and to get inspired by it. Like, "Guys, this is where you came from, "like that was your-- "Wait, tell me about your great grandma's recipe. "Okay, hold on a second, "I want to know about your grandfather's--" So he really just sort of knit that together. It's allowed us to feel more us. As I go back through the layers of Canlis it started to make sense. How can we use that ethos to create something new? There's a lot of parallels between the restaurant's story and my own. You know, I'm part Japanese and my mom's from Japan, and Japanese cuisine has always been a big part of my life. It's influenced my cooking probably more than any other culture. When my grandfather came to Seattle, he was doing food that pulled and drew largely from his roots, Greek and Lebanese, and then from what he'd seen in Hawaii. What was happening with fish out there and just cooking styles and techniques that were not readily available or seen on the mainland. It is reflected in the cuisine that we create and I think I was able to provide something that made sense in the context of Canlis. It's prudent to pay attention to the rear view mirror. I think Brady did that really well. He's like, "Okay, this is what's cool, "and this is what's next, this is what "the way we should source, and this is the ingredients "we should be using, think through this differently." The soul of everything has remained the same. The should have never changed. We have a legacy to uphold. Every time we put on the shoes and run the apron and work. - [Mark Offscreen] You guys, what do we have? Tuesday night, won't you take us through it? - [Woman] Flames! Yes, the Anthony Green party is a great job at six forty-five. They got engaged here and Lennon played the song "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green on the piano, I think it'd be really cool if we somehow recorded it, that happened again. If you approach every table the same way you're doing them a disservice, you're being selfish at the table, you're saying, "We know how to serve you "because this is what we do, we're professionals." But you don't. You don't know how to serve somebody until you understand who they are. And so keeping the promise is figuring out how to make Canlis live up to what they needed to be tonight. The restaurant was created to be one of the best restaurants in the world. That will always be the underpinnings of this place. But, everyone just wants another restaurant, what people want is relationships and what people care about is that they, and the people they love are cared for. It's sixty-seven years of doing that, it's sixty-seven years of seeing through all of the fancy, all of the fine dining, all of what people perceive restaurants to be. I want to serve the people who are like, "Where the hell am I?" And I'll be like, "You are in a restaurant that loves you "and is excited to serve you! "Sit down and let's eat!" At the end of the day, it's just a restaurant. But what's happening inside of it, those things will never happen again. In this room, this space, this is a community. And you guys are equals. Tonight we celebrate. And we might be different than you. But that doesn't matter, it doesn't matter when you're eating, it doesn't matter when you come together at the table. It might not be possible to become the number one restaurant in America and invest so much time in people. But it seems worth trying. We fight hard to keep moments that are just about our family and not about our business. I think that's the trick of a family business, is knowing when to draw boundaries. I think Mom and Dad did an incredible job of having it not be too much of our identity and I think we saw this place as a place full of potential; it drew us in. But nobody thought that's how it was gonna happen. I tell my kids that Canlis is something to be thankful for. Maybe one day they'll work here, and maybe one day they won't. There's so many things I want my kids to do. There's so much they're capable of. I would never exchange the restaurant's future for one of my children's future. - [Brian Voiceover] I mean, I look at my own childhood. And the restaurant was where Dad worked. Our family table was not in this restaurant. My brothers and myself, we're raising our families the same way. The restaurant's there, but it's not everything. - [Mark Voiceover] So if I'm gonna teach my kids something, it's that if they want to learn to live, then they can come home and cook with us and sit around the table. - [Brian Voiceover] There's something magical about gathering around a table. And yes, we eat hard as a family when we're together. For our family, it's a way, it's an excuse to bring people together. And so we look at time around the table with our families as one of the most important things that we can do as a family. That's where magic happens. Let's eat and drink and laugh and be goofy, and that's where you feel like family.

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