Last night, I drove by Veil. You remember, that modern fine dining restaurant I worked at until last July? The one that closed in September?
The papers said it was one of the first casualties of the economy. A restaurant barely in in its third year, taken down by the tightening belts of the diners in the city.
I spent exactly one year at Veil, hired alongside Johnny Zhu, who left within weeks of me. Our small crew, who predated our tenure by a month or so, stayed on until they got the bad news, at which point they scrambled to find a new paycheck.
Towards the end of my time there, it was clear Veil was ailing. The ownership was doing all it could to keep their business floating. The customers came in erratically. Brunch service was added. Sunday dinner service was cut.
I can’t imagine too many things sadder than watching your restaurant die. It was hard to stomach as an employee. Watching the numbers in the book read zero twice a week. Seeing your cooks loose half their shifts and shake their heads at paychecks that won’t cover rent. Checks that at times bounce.
It was sad in part because Veil held so much hope for me as a pastry chef. The dining room was modern and absolutely stunning, stark white, veiled and back lit with pinks and ambers. It set the stage for me to bring striking modern presentations, creative flavors, new textures. When I returned from my stage at WD-50, it was clear I needed a creative outlet, and Veil was the first place I took a resume. It was the only place in Seattle I knew I’d have the freedom to do exactly what I wanted, no compromises.
When I drove by last night, the sun was setting, casting pinks and ambers through the windows, a ghostly reminder of the light that once illuminated Veil. Everything is there, the marble communal table, the Philip Stark chairs, pots, flatware. The tables sit as if in wait for their next service.
It gave me chills, seeing the empty restaurant left exactly as it was the last day it was alive, a for sale sign the only indication this restaurant wouldn’t be opening that evening. I pulled over and pressed my nose against the glass, watching the sunset color the restaurant one last time, my memories casting shadowy figures in the kitchen, ghosts striding through the dining room.
It made me sad.