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Hello summer! The 21st of June is technically the first day of the season, but longtime Seattleites know that heat isn't supposed to enter the picture until after the July 4th holiday—at earliest. Though sun is a welcome sight, the current temperatures we're enduring just go to show that the threat of climate change is real and consequential.

When temperatures rise, it's important to know what to do to stay safe. Check out these recommendations for staying cool. (Side tip: many public libraries have air conditioning if you need somewhere free to go.)

Additionally, wildfire smoke is all but guaranteed this season. Don't wait to order HEPA filters (or make a DIY box fan filter—instructions here) and replenish your filtered mask supply. Whether it's record-breaking temperatures or dangerous air quality, remember to hydrate! Have fun this summer, but be safe (especially around water), and do your part to reduce your carbon footprint—including voting for candidates that prioritize the environment.  


This issue, Niki talks to Canlis' new executive chef, Aisha Ibrahim, and her partner, new research and development chef, Samantha Beaird, about working together, sexism and misogyny in restaurants, and finding their Seattle groove. And Nia talks to a custom woodworker who's building everything from furniture to decks—and a team of skilled women. 

Reminder, if you like our work and support our mission of valuing the work that women do, please consider contributing, if you're able. Every little bit boosts our efforts to provide original, quality journalism and helps us grow in order to bring you more voices and stories. Thanks to those who've already pitched in!

A Fine Pairing

Canlis' new executive chef Aisha Ibrahim and research and development chef Samantha Beaird talk teamwork, in and out of the kitchen.

Aisha Ibrahim and Samantha Beaird each left the U.S. partly in search of better work-life balance. A few years, restaurants, and countries later, they're finding professional and personal growth in Seattle, leading renowned restaurant Canlis' post-pandemic reopening. Photo by Nia Martin.

When Aisha Ibrahim and Samantha Beaird met in Thailand over five years ago, they were several hop-skips into their respective culinary careers and shared a common thread—both were dissatisfied with the restaurant industry in the U.S. and had gone abroad looking for a change. Ibrahim was seeking work-life balance that seemed unattainable in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she rose in the ranks to become a sous chef at three-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa, in Los Gatos. Beaird, who grew up in Woodland, California, had a degree in food science, plus experience at America’s Test Kitchen and in fine dining, but was on the verge of quitting the restaurant industry entirely. 

Now, famed Seattle restaurant Canlis has enticed them back to the States, with Ibrahim as the first woman heading up the legacy 71-year-old establishment as executive chef, along with Beaird as the restaurant’s first research and development chef.

Beaird’s was the first resume Ibrahim looked at when, as chef de cuisine at Aziamendi in Thailand, she was down a pastry chef and a sous chef, juggling those roles plus her own. At the time, Beaird was backpacking through Southeast Asia with her knives and checking out different kitchens, with plans to go to Australia. An Instagram direct message and a meeting later, it was clear Beaird would be a great addition to the team.

“It was really nice to have someone come in, who was from the Bay Area, who spoke the language of seasonality and sustainability already,” says Ibrahim. “I needed a thinker and she was definitely a thinker.”

Their instant connection crackled beyond the kitchen as well. By the time Canlis came calling—another introduction via Instagram, with Brian Canlis reaching out to Ibrahim via DM after perusing her work—the two had become a dynamic duo, their work and personal lives interwoven.

That can be both wonderful and complicated. “I think one of the biggest challenges is just bringing work home,” says Beaird. “The divide between work and home can be very small. They're always connected. Sometimes it's great. Sometimes the best ideas come from that. But also, it becomes difficult, too, when you want to connect for normal couple things. Going out to eat is rarely ever only just going out to eat. Or making dinner can sometimes be not just making dinner.”

“To know that someone in the room one million percent has your back, is someone that trusts you, and is your biggest advocate, your biggest cheerleader, your biggest supporter, and vice versa—you are that to them—there's something very special about that,” says Ibrahim.

Perhaps especially because of how Ibrahim and Beaird work together, the Canlis teamwork ethos made a big impression on them. Owners and brothers, Brian and Mark, have likened joining the Canlis team to joining a family. Under their guidance, the restaurant has burnished a reputation for thinking differently, from hosting parking lot pop-ups by guest food producers, to pandemic pivots that included creative new spaces for distanced fine dining (Yurt Village), as well as branching off into casual barbeque fare with The Canteen and generously shutting the restaurant down to feed first responders in the infamous Aurora Bridge tour bus crash that shut down 99 in 2015.  

“We had always said it would take absolutely special circumstances for us to move back to the U.S.,” says Ibrahim. It was clear that this opportunity was indeed special, for a variety of reasons. Interview questions were “more about who you are as a person,” says Beaird, and the two met long-serving staff, for example, who had been there for more than 30 years.

“The investment in the people in this restaurant is something I've never seen before,” says Ibrahim. “When we came to visit and we got to meet everyone, understand how serious they were about their culture, it made a big impact for us in our decision making."

“I think for the brothers, they also understand that a chef having support from the get-go is very important,” says Beaird of herself and Ibrahim being hired together. “Someone that understands their style and what they're going for.”

And, oh yeah, there’s the food: “I'll be honest, like, there's one major selfish chef reason,” says Ibrahim. “The Pacific Northwest has some of the best product in the world.” In Thailand and Spain, moving restaurants away from flying ingredients in, and working instead with what was available in the area, was one of Ibrahim’s signature moves—but it also meant she couldn’t use things like salmon and geoduck. “From a chef perspective, I was so excited to consider the idea of having those things on my menu again.”

Ibrahim and Beaird at Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park. Photo by Nia Martin.
“It's kind of our opportunity now. It's something we talk to the sous chefs about daily. How do you lead in a way that makes you approachable, empathetic, and gives you the ability to get across to people, so that they trust you and you can guide them through the difficulties of being a new cook?” Aisha Ibrahim, Canlis executive chef 

One thing that isn’t different in the restaurant industry, in the U.S. or abroad, is the misogyny and sexism. It comes from both restaurant customers, as well as in the kitchen.

Ibrahim recalls that during her time in the Basque region of Spain at Azurmendi (sister restaurant to Aziamendi), guests would routinely walk up to her 6-foot-plus-tall, male sous chef, thanking him for the food—thinking he was the restaurant’s executive chef.  “It's just, perception of how we see a chef.”

In another example, Ibrahim recalls a guest, in Asia, telling her, “‘If you were a white male with your resume, you would be taken so much more seriously, and I mean that with all love and it hurts for me to say that.’”

As for the abuse among staff,
some of which is coming to light, Beaird says, “It feels like every female has that one person. One male or female chef that they’ve worked with, or cook that they worked with, that they will remember forever. Whether it’s verbal harassment, sexual harassment, threatening, belittling—but generally the one person is sexual harassment. It is much more rampant than we think it is.”

Beaird’s adamant, however, that
high-profile takedowns don’t translate to, or begin to scratch the surface of, the abuses going on throughout the industry, including your friendly neighborhood diner or burger joint. “It's great that we're taking down all these big chefs, but also, it happens in almost every restaurant. You don't need a name to do that. How do we fix it? You know, it's a societal problem. It's not just isolated to our industry.”

“It's sad and true that it happens more often than we want to really discuss,” says Ibrahim. “To think that this [public call out of abusive and/or illegal behavior] is their ‘it’ moment—no, this is the tip of the iceberg. You could read a story about probably each of the restaurants I've worked in.”

But Ibrahim says that she sees, in the newer generation of chefs in her own network, people looking out for each other more. And they themselves want to create a support network of healthy guidance and mentorship.

“I contemplated leaving the industry because there was all this stuff I felt like was happening and there was zero support. There was zero network of people to go to for advice on how to deal with it,” says Beaird. “We need to create a network of support and a safe space for people to be able to have conversations about it. I think the new generation is talking about it, which is great, but it's also figuring out how to support women in this situation and how to continue to encourage them to remain in the industry because often, they leave.”

“It’s kind of our opportunity now,” says Ibrahim. “It’s something we talk to the sous chefs about daily. How do you lead in a way that makes you approachable, empathetic, and gives you the ability to get across to people, so that they trust you and you can guide them through the difficulties of being a new cook? And it's not just directed at the young female folks, it's for everyone.”

In addition to growing professionally and helping other up-and-coming chefs and cooks do the same, Ibrahim and Beaird felt that in coming to Seattle, they could grow and fulfill personal goals for their lives together as well, keeping the work-life balance that they both had previously struggled to achieve in the U.S.

“We've been talking, for example, about getting a dog for the last five years. And we now have a dog,” laughs Ibrahim. “Seattle is a very dog-friendly city and we're obsessed with her. To be able to accept a job that would allow us to have the lifestyle and, professionally, the product and the team that we believed in—that was huge for us. We are in love with our work, and we're not afraid to say that, but at the same time, working in restaurants can often be this one-sided relationship between you and the restaurant, the restaurant will take from you and not the other way.”

At home, they like to explore their respective heritages in their cooking. Ibrahim is Filipino and part Maranao, Indigenous people on the Philippine island of Mindanao. Favorite dishes include piaparan manok and biko. “Muslim food in the south is very different from what we all know as Filipino food. It's not just lumpia and adobo.” Beaird is part Japanese. Rice and seaweed are a near-daily staple for the couple, along with mushrooms and eggplant, which are often in their pantry. “Sam makes really good kimchi—like really really good,” says Ibrahim. The two have developed routines around coffee, taco runs, and, now, dog walks in their downtown neighborhood.

Ultimately, the duo revels in their partnership, in and out of the restaurant. “I'm never the kind of person who feels like we ever have perfect services,” says Ibrahim, “but when we have a good service—it's, like, that much better that you get to share it with [your partner]. You're like, ‘Wow, we did this. We accomplished this.’” By Niki Stojnic


Canlis reopens its celebrated dining room, by reservation, July 1st.

Ibrahim and Beaird are self-described "creatures of habit" and have found several haunts to call their own in their new Seattle home. They achieved one of their lifestyle milestones too, recently adopting a Bernedoodle named Mochi who they take for walks at Olympic Sculpture Park. Photo by Nia Martin.

She Made It 

Who’s the local woodworker behind this gorgeous handcrafted piece? Tap the image to find out.

ATTN:

What we are seeing and doing this week/end

Washington state is currently subject to Governor Inslee's Healthy Washington—Roadmap to Recovery plan until further notice (be sure to check the latest Washington State Coronavirus Response Guidelines). We're highlighting ways to engage and support the community safely.
Niki:

Through August 15, Frye Art Museum has "Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem," featuring nearly 80 Black artists' works from the 1920s to present, including some of Seattle's own. Reserve a timed ticket.

Just opened at MoPop, "Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement" looks at touchstones, politics, people, and more of the LGBTQIA+ movement and also features curated stories of Seattle LGBTQIA+ artists and activists. Get tickets and check for related events as they get added to the calendar.
Nia: 

Recently published, Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home by Seattle journalist Lynda V. Mapes explores the history and plight of our unique Southern Resident orcas. Be sure to also check out the last days of Orca Action Month while you're at it (though it's great to take actions and learn more about our Southern Residents outside of this month, too).

After a pandemic delay, In the Heart speakeasy from Lika Love owner Malika Saddiq is finally open! Tucked behind Saddiq's boutique, this dazzling New Orleans-inspired hideaway offers up sazeracs, jambalaya, and more.   
We love what we do here at P&L—and hope you do, too! 

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