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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

November 30, 2010 at 9:18 AM

Canlis: the gift that keeps on giving

Canlis has hosted umpteen birthday parties in its day. But the celebrated restaurant, set to celebrate its 60th birthday December 12, is preparing to party-hearty by paying tribute to the people who make Seattle — and the world — a better place.

“We thought about having a typical big-bash deal, where we’d charge customers $1000 a head and give the money to charity,” said third-generation co-owner Mark Canlis, “but no one was into it.” Not his brother Brian, with whom he runs the restaurant their grandfather envisioned, nor their parents Chris and Alice, who famously hosted a $10,000-per-couple millennium party in 1999, raising $500,000 for local charities in a single night.

Instead of inviting wealthy patrons to open their wallets, says Mark, the family decided to open the doors of their restaurant to “like-hearted people” who “live generously” by “redefining the meaning of community” at a time when community is all some of us may have. Invitees include representatives from 100 local philanthropic organizations, among them FareStart and the Union Gospel Mission.

Also on the guest-list is Seattle’s Eugene Cho, founder of One Day’s Wages, whose mission is to encourage all of us to give one day’s wages each year to fight extreme global poverty. And the folks behind Aurora Commons, offering a clean well-lighted place for down-and-out denizens of Aurora Avenue. They’ll have an opportunity to meet — and eat — with leaders from PATH and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.

“Most of us don’t have the option to fix much, but we all have the option to be involved,” says Mark, whose family has had a longstanding commitment to doing just that. “At your birthday party, you traditionally receive a gift,” adds his brother, Brian. “This may look like we’re giving a gift, but really, we’ve been receiving the greatest gift ever: the work that these people are doing for our city, for us, and for our children. They’ve created a place that I want to live in.”

Brian (left) and Mark Canlis will be waiting to greet special guests at their restaurant’s 60th birthday party.

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