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May 5, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Bastille’s Galusha takes on Classic Concepts: first, in Kent

Opportunity knocked — again — and Shannon Galusha answered. This week, the executive chef who brought us the fine-dining restaurant Veil, and later helped Bastille Cafe & Bar build its reputation as a Ballard’s French hotspot, will take his leave to partner in a new venture. As Galusha bids farewell to Messieurs Deming Maclise and James Weimann, the boys behind Bastille, he’s binding ties to another team of restaurant visionaries: Jeff Chandler and Matthew Schweitzer.

At the newly formed Classic Concepts Group, Galusha and company are thinking big, with plans to open several “innovative local neighborhood restaurants” in short order in 2011, and longterm plans to plant more (and different) concepts throughout Puget Sound.

With a signed lease on a 3200-square-foot space in Kent Station (where they expect to open a classic American tavern tentatively called Cal’s Classic American), a letter-of-intent filed on a second location in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood (all hail, Amazonians!) and their eyes firmly trained on Gig Harbor, it appears the trio is well on their way to living up to their group vision.

“I had a really challenging decision to make” regarding leaving a going concern to start one of his own, says Galusha. He recently oversaw the culinary direction of Bastille’s new Mexican-sib Poquitos on Capitol Hill, and will leave his talented second-in-command Jason Stoneburner to fill his shoes. “There’s so much potential for growth working with James and Demming.”

Bastille’s chef-exec Shannon Galusha, showing growth potential on the restaurant’s rooftop garden in Ballard. [Seattle Times/Steve Ringman].

But it apparently didn’t take much for him to be swayed by Chandler, whose history in the local restaurant business began when his father, Cal Chandler and Cal’s business partner Jeff Iverson, Sr., opened the Ram Pub in 1971. You know the business today as the multi-state, multi-restaurant RAM International. Perhaps you’ve lifted a brew at a RAM Restaurant & Brewery, or hope to celebrate Cinco de Mayo today at Sonrisa in University Village?

Jeff Chandler grew up as the family business continued to grow, and with his friend Jeff Iverson, Jr. became second-generation owners — before parting ways in 2006. “When I sold to him, we had 36 restaurants in eight states,” Chandler says. “I had a non-compete, and it’s now expired, so I’m ready to jump back in a meaningful way.” His driving force, he says, is “aligning with the right people and doing something in line with the restaurant environment today.”

Those people include partner Matt Schweitzer, a young F&B operations-guy late of Squaw Valley and a longtime family friend, Chandler says. And Nathan Simpson of Blackrock Industries, handling the fast-track design-and-construction services Classic Concepts will need to keep things moving.

To that end, the team is putting the finishing touches on a 5,000 square-foot kitchen/work studio in Tacoma’s Brewery District, built as a test kitchen and private-events space and set to open this month. There, Galusha will test-drive menus for the taverns, focusing on straightforward American fare.

“I have a list of American taverns to use as reference points,” says Galusha, citing New York City’s vaunted Gramercy Tavern and Cakes & Ale in Decatur, Ga., known — as the chef has been — for using fine local ingredients to their best advantage. The chef-partner will also lend a creative hand with construction and design. “Jeff came to me wanting something different than he’s done in the past,” Galusha says. “He understands that we want chef-driven, food-driven concepts.”

Ironically, the first of those is a 170-seat construct located a stone’s throw from the RAM Restaurant & Brewery at Kent Station. “The concept will be markedly different from the RAM,” Chandler insists. “We’re talking about 28 items on the menu, or less.”

“Seattle is blessed with so many great restaurants, some old and some new,” says Chandler, who sees his first effort as an opportunity to up the restaurant ante in Kent, before extending to Seattle and the South Sound where he resides. At Kent Station, home to the RAM, Mama Sortini’s and Duke’s, among others, “there’s a lot of competition, but there’s also a lot of draw. What better place to launch something than a place like that?”

Classic Concepts’ first concept, a tavern, will reside at this just leased-spot in Kent Station.

[Seattle Times/John Lok]

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