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December 10, 2012 at 1:30 AM

After 25 years, Thierry Rautureau to close Rover’s

thierry rautureau.jpg

“Chef in the hat” Thierry Rautureau isn’t leaving Seattle. But after 25 years, he’s planning to turn out the lights at Rover’s, his four-star restaurant in Madison Park, and move on to other projects. Luc, his bustling bistro practically next door, will stay open.

Rover’s — scheduled to close in April — has been “a great adventure,” the chef said Monday morning, shortly before a “merci” e-mail went out to his mailing list. But the restaurant’s lease was up. Rather than extend it another 10 years — “being the Curious George that I am” — he wanted to try something different. He’s ironing out details of a new project, in addition to working on Luc and the Kitchen Circus show, plus the occasional gig on national TV. And a radio show with fellow star Tom Douglas. And fund-raising for his charity of choice, Food Lifeline.

Rautureau understands that his “beautiful landmark” restaurant has become an institution in town, and that guests who have come for 10th anniversaries and then 20th anniversaries will be sad to look elsewhere to celebrate the 30th. But he wanted to explore new projects outside the limitations of that space, and to close when he still felt Rover’s was at the top of its game. (Most recent honors: A rare 29/30 score in the new Zagat ratings, where it was judged Seattle’s #1 restaurant for food and for service.)

“I don’t want (it) ever to become old and decrepit and ‘it used to be great and now it’s not,’ ” he said.

It’s been “a luxury” to practice his craft and run the business, and it was a hard call emotionally to shut it down, though he and his wife and business partner Kathy are at peace with it. They initially extended the lease a year to think it over.

“Looking back at Rover’s ascent in the hospitality and culinary world over the years is still unbelievable, and even startling,” the couple wrote Monday.

“We have an enormous amount of gratitude for all the people who have participated in building this legacy, especially the customers, the employees and our purveyors. We are turning a new leaf and we are moving onto exciting projects.”

There’s no question the new projects will be here, he said.

“This is my town — and my kind of town.”

(If the lineup at Le Gourmand and Bisato was any indication, I’d get a reservation soon for your last bite of caviar-topped scrambled egg.)

Chef in the chapeau photo courtesy of Rover’s

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