When Kerry Sear opened Cascadia in the Austin Bell building nine years ago, he had 15 years experience working for the Four Seasons hotel chain, much of that time spent as chef-exec of the the Hotel Formerly Known as the Four Seasons Olympic. So, is it any surprise that after nearly a decade as an independent operator — one whose resume included stints in Vancouver, B.C., Toronto and Seattle — the brass at the new Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences is happy to welcome him back into the fold, offering up the top culinary slot at the new hotel set to open this fall at First and Union?
Working for a company with 75 luxury hotels around the world (76 by week’s end) will be a luxury after running his own restaurant, bar and catering business, Sear says. Cascadia is for sale — though he won’t sell the name or his “Miniburger” empire (see my burger round-up, Friday, for more on those burgers). And while there have been “a couple of parties interested,” he expects to keep the place open through much of the summer. “In the perfect scenario,” he says, “we’ll move up there in August.” Having just told his employees the news last weekend, he’s hoping many of them will also make the transition to the hotel, whose as yet-unnamed restaurant and bar will be similar in size to Cascadia, Sear says. Its menu will be Modern American with a Pacific Northwest influence — “My style, with the quality of the Four Seasons backing it.”
What drove his decision to sell and go back to the Four Seasons? Sear says that looking toward the future, he realized he didn’t want to do multiple units, nor was he hot to throw more money into Cascadia or revamp the concept. And when the Four Seasons tapped him for the job as executive chef and director of food and beverage, he was game to go back to a game he knew well. “This is the next step for me, career-wise. I’m pleased I did Cascadia. I learned a lot.”
Among the things he learned was how, in the less-than-glamorous world of being a chef/owner/operator, your money, time and talent were often on the line. “I won’t have to go unblock anymore toilets,” he says. Nor will he be awakened at home at 3 a.m. when the restaurant’s alarm system is set off. “Now I can just call the maintenance department.” And even his 7-year-old son is excited about the new job, telling everyone, “Now, daddy’s restaurant has a swimming pool!”