This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of ALZ, a magazine of the Alzheimer’s Association.
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Food can create snapshots in time — cherished moments we never want to lose. Brian Canlis, the third-generation co-owner of Seattle’s acclaimed restaurant Canlis, has seen food wield this power often.
For Brian, it’s moments like family gatherings, incomplete until his great-grandmother’s famous Canlis Salad is served, or watching his kids bound through the doors of his restaurant to beg the pastry chef for ice cream. The family recipes passed down through many generations, the countless meals shared together — these are the moments that connect Brian to people, places and time, he says.
On the national culinary stage, Brian has appeared as a guest judge on “Top Chef ” and has been featured on “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain.” He uses his growing visibility to speak up for causes he believes in. As an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association, Brian is committed to helping end dementia because he says the organization’s mission aligns with his deepest values: honoring and protecting special moments between family.
Canlis restaurant, co-owned by Brian and his brother Mark Canlis, has earned three James Beard Awards under their leadership. But the fine-dining destination is known for more than just what arrives on the plate. Canlis’ excellent customer service is well-touted in the industry, and is a key element of the restaurant’s success. Focusing on the customer is a long tradition that was first instituted when Brian’s grandfather started the restaurant in 1950.
“When people walk through the doors of our restaurant, they’re coming because tonight matters for some reason and they trust us to honor that,” Brian says. “Whether it’s a dad and his daughter celebrating her 16th birthday, or a family having dinner with their mom before she goes in for surgery — they bring that to us and say, ‘Take care of this moment.’”
Brian has remained committed to delivering those moments even during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the dining room closed in March 2020, the Canlis brothers decided to bring the restaurant’s unique experience into people’s homes. Thanks to a series of innovative pivots, loyal Canlis patrons have enjoyed drive-thru burgers and bagels, three-course family takeout meals and wine delivery from the Canlis cellar.
“I think time around the table is where the most magical and special moments are made, especially between people who love each other,” Brian says. “Preserving those memories is something powerful I can get behind.”
2 heads of romaine lettuce (discard outer leaves), chopped
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup cubed fresh Italian bread
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
½ cup scallions, thinly sliced
¾ cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
¾ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1. Wash and dry the lettuce, then put in the refrigerator to chill.
2. Fry the bacon in a large pan over medium-high heat until almost crisp, then remove and set aside. Drain all but one tablespoon of bacon grease, then add the bread cubes to the pan and toss to coat. Toast the cubes on low heat, tossing occasionally until crisp.
3. To make the salad dressing, place a whole egg in its shell inside a coffee cup, then pour boiling water over the top. Allow the egg to cook for 60 seconds, then remove and rinse under running water until cool. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil, then crack the egg into the bowl and whisk again until well-combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a salad bowl, combine chilled lettuce, scallions, mint, oregano and bacon. Toss with dressing, then top with tomatoes, bacon-fried croutons and freshly grated cheese.