By Michael Sarko
– The Capitol Hill Times -
Seattle Restaurant Week is a point of community pride. As some of the city’s most loved and lucrative small businesses, the 150 eateries of the Seattle Restaurant Cooperative take the better part of April to introduce themselves to new patrons and reintroduce themselves to those of us who support them throughout the year. There’s more to the community involvement of the Restaurant Week participants than discounted prix fixe menus, though. The people who run the show, from the management office to the kitchen, regularly give back through charities and causes that make their city better.
Charity involvement in the Seattle restaurant scene has moved beyond individual awareness raising and philanthropy. The process has become systematized through programs like Celebrated Chefs, a Seattle-based charity system established in 2009 by Katherine Kehril and Bob Sarkie. Celebrated Chefs uses an automated online registration program that allows patrons of hundreds of restaurants nationwide to discreetly donate 5 percent of their dining bill to any of a vast list of non-profit organizations. Among the partner organizations are Capitol Hill mainstays like The Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus, the GSBA Scholarship Fund and Country Doctor Community Health Centers.
One of the many restaurants associated with Celebrated Chefs is Crush, the owners of which are some of the co-founders of Seattle Restaurant Week. The husband and wife team of Chef Jason and Nicole Wilson who manage Crush, the crew of Ethan Stowell Restaurants and the organic-minded folks at Tilth founded the Seattle Restaurant Cooperative. Today, the cooperative includes some of Seattle’s favorite and best-rated dining establishments, many of which have plugged into Celebrated Chefs to generate a significant amount of funding for local and national non-profits.
Celebrated Chefs doesn’t have a monopoly on charitable dining. When Larry and Tabitha Kurofsky opened the first Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in Woodinville their locally sourced cuisine was already rooted in the community, but those roots only went deeper as they expanded throughout the city. Now, with multiple Purple locations on both sides of Lake Washington, the revered Lot No. 3 in Bellevue and Capitol Hill’s Mexican cuisine and craft cocktail retreat Barrio, the Kurofsky clan gives back through their Heavy Restaurant Group. They focus mainly on non-profits that benefit children, such as the Olive Crest child abuse prevention program, the Childhaven care system and Dish Up Literacy.
Outside the high-tech charity networks and hands-on support programs that define the community involvement of the more established restaurants of Seattle, newer eateries count on the simple pride of vocal support to link themselves to their favorite causes. Keeman Wong is a relative newcomer to food on the Hill, opening the Cantonese-themed Bako in October, 2011 to much fanfare. His takeover of the space formerly belonging to Jade Pagoda involved one of the community’s favorite words in real estate, “preservation,” and Wong himself is a supporter of a cause that is near and dear to Capitol Hill.
“I’m supportive of the great work that Equal Rights Washington has been doing in support of marriage equality for the LGBT community in Washington state,” he said. Equal Rights Washington spearheaded the grassroots work for Washington State Senate Bill 6239 and its companion House Bill 2516 to legalize same-sex marriage, and is currently leading the fight to approve Referendum 74 to ratify those bills on the upcoming November ballot.