Ghosts

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.

5 Responses to “Ghosts”

  1. Loving Annie says:

    A restaurant has a heart and soul, and the energy that goes with it, both structurally, esthetically and with all of the employees participating in it.

    It is a death, literally and practically.

    Happening to many places now because of the recession and people cutting back their discretionary expenditures. Many fine restaurant owners and chefs dreams and hopes have been dashed.

    My empathy -
    Loving annie

  2. Shari says:

    That sounds tough. The recession is hitting everyone so hard. Nice words here, though, to remember it by.

  3. Kirsten says:

    I miss it, too. There was real magic that happened in that kitchen. A palpable chemsitry between you, Shannon, Johnny and all the staff. I had meals I still talk about. But I am guilty as an accopmlice of this death, b/c I had not been for months when we heard the news. Not sure how it happens. A place you love is quietly dying, but we were convinced by the media we should start saving money.

    One thing I have learned in theses times: endorse what you love, or it won’t be there long. At the moment, I am lucky and yet to be effected by the recession (not counting my ailing 401k). I have a paycheck, so I am trying to remain committed to spending it on my community in the same way I did a year ago. Things will not turn around if we all put $$ under the mattress. See you at Poppy.

  4. Trig says:

    I’m afraid you’re going to see a lot more. The crisis is hitting the industry very deeply, with restaurants closing or threatened with closure everywhere. It’s tough times for people like me who are just making a start on the road to becoming professional chefs and restaurateurs.

  5. Rose says:

    Did u hear the news? Erik came into Monsoon and told Johnny that the whole building was sold to a French couple (it’s probably the only way to keep a restaurant like that afloat–by owning the building and not paying that ridiculous lease!) Stay tuned for Veil Part 2?

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