Last time, I told you about an outfit called Dyne that was about to launch a new app for pop-ups (private, one-time-only, fixed price, fixed menu, limited-seating private events). The developers were pretty uptight about their operations and afraid that premature publicity would somehow ruin their work. It didn’t happen.
In the meantime, Julien Perry has been running a real pop-up venture called the ONO (One Night Only) Project. Along with longtime pal Melinda Peterson, Perry has partnered with top local chefs (Thierry Rautureau, Josh Henderson) to stage monthly dinners at established restaurants or catering spaces (Mallett, in SODO, is a favorite), almost always on behalf of a high-profile charitable cause or nonprofit.
Pop-ups, as we pointed out last month, are a great proving ground for new concepts and aspiring executive chefs; they can fill up a restaurant on a slow (or dark) night. But they’re quite time-consuming to pull off: ONO has become pretty much a full-time job for both Perry and Peterson.
Sound like a gig you’d like? Here’s the path Perry took: a University of Washington degree in communications; a series of internships in Tacoma, Seattle and New York; a stint at the Art Institutes; work at Seattle Weekly writing food gossip for Jonathan Kauffman; herding cats and wrangling freelancers at Eater.com; food editor at Seattle Magazine.
What’s next? Her own venue would be nice.
In the meantime, she’s “maintaining good relations with the industry.” She’s proud of the fact that no chef has ever said no.
The story behind the name
You know that neat spot at 601 Queen Anne Ave. N., at the corner of Mercer Street, called Toulouse Petit? It turns out the place isn’t named for Toulouse, France, at all, but for Rue Toulouse in Nawlins.
From the first day, it’s been packed. I talked to owner Brian Hutmacher, who is still a couple of months short of his 30th birthday: “My first job as a waiter was at a little place on Toulouse Street. Its small menu was centered around Creole cuisine and had a slightly crazy chef who was immensely frustrated and talented all at once, and an English maitre d’ who enjoyed indulging his various British control issues with impressionable waiters like myself, who would extend credulity to his curious inclinations.
“Despite their various slightly destructive qualities (sounds so stereotypical of restaurant types, I know) the place was truly wonderful, even magical at times,” he continued. “It was an endeavor that those who worked there could channel what was best in them in a positive way, and that produced enjoyment for others.”
Hutmacher lived in what used to be slave quarters about 10 minutes’ walk away. Every day, when he turned into the Rue Toulouse, he knew that anything might happen.
“I loved that feeling, and it was new and exciting to me then,” he said. “And a different kind of excitement than the reasons I thought.”
The name Toulouse for this project came to him in 2004, when he was having lunch with his close friend Lisa Wallace. “She was a tarot reader at the time at Tenzing Momo, and I was throwing names out to her, knowing that Toulouse was what I liked the most and would probably select anyway, but I wanted her sense of the options I was considering. I suppose you could call it a one-person focus group of name-testing.”
And why, after all that, did Hutmacher name his place Toulouse Petit? Because the original concept for Toulouse was for a different, much larger space. And this one is full of so many small pieces (no fewer than 85,000 mosaic floor tiles), and many, many small steps.
It opens at 8 a.m. every day for a breakfast menu the likes of which Seattle hasn’t ever seen: a half-dozen Creole breakfasts, even more eggs Benedict combinations, another dozen scrambles and omelets, not to mention beignets and French toast, nor a dozen light-me-up libations, including traditional Nawlins cocktails like the Hurricane and the Sazerac.
Most restaurants shut down their kitchens come 10 p.m., but not Toulouse Petit. The late-night menu alone is probably the most extensive you’ll see in Seattle, outside of 13 Coins, and it’s not just burgers and steaks: oysters, gumbo, blackened rockfish, Creole linguini with shrimp or chicken.
One caution: This place is loud — on-purpose loud and jammed to the gills.
When Paul Allen gets his teeth into something, he does it right. One of his interests (along with brain research, the Seahawks, South Lake Union real estate, etc.) is sustainable seafood.
There’s already a list aimed at letting consumers know which fish are recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but Allen’s now come up with a Smart Catch program designed for restaurants (where two-thirds of all seafood is consumed).
Many of the early supporters of the concept — making sure at least 90 percent of the seafood items on the menu are sustainable — include both Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell’s restaurants and the fish-throwing guys at Pike Place Fish Market.
But they’re not the only ones: More than 40 restaurants are participating in the lead-off round, which they’re calling “First Catch.” Among them: Chandler’s Crabhouse on Lake Union, Chippy’s and Walrus & Carpenter in Ballard and How to Cook a Wolf on Queen Anne. There’s an interactive website (smartcatch.fish) to help you find more spots. Look for the Smart Catch logo at the restaurant entrance and on their menus.
RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com. He recently published “Home Grown Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink.” To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.