Brooke and Randy Baker met in 1983 in Los Angeles, where they both worked as server captains at Lautrec, a high-end fine dining establishment so elegant that the servers were clad in tuxedos.
Twenty-seven years ago they moved to Washington. As Brooke concentrated on child-rearing, Randy managed a number of restaurants including Dukes and McCormick and Schmick’s.
They steered clear of the idea of restaurant ownership. They knew well from their experience the added responsibility that came with it.
“You know, we never set a goal to own our own place. A friend thought Chanterelle would be a good fit for us. After looking at it, Randy and I both knew that it was what we wanted to do. It became a sort of calling for us,” Baker said.
Originally a German deli (a great concept that was just way ahead of its time), Chanterelle went through three owners in 11 years. The Bakers have been at the helm ever since.
It was a great fit for them. The could tag team work and child rearing. Brooke Baker quipped that when they bought the place, their younger son Grant was still in diapers; now as they prepare to turn the place over, they’ve just recently celebrated his marriage. Their elder son Troy works with them at the restaurant, and he will continue there.
As the Bakers were arranging for the sale of Chanterelle, it was very gratifying for them to know that the new owner, Hoa Tran, has no plans to the change staffing and no immediate plans to make any changes to the menu.
“It was especially important to us that the new owner would be retaining our staff,” Brooke Baker said. “We have some that have been with us for 20 years more or less, plus others who have been with us shorter but are so dear to us too. We so wanted them to still have their jobs.”
Chanterelle staff members were “understandably nervous when they heard we were selling, but I think they’re resting easier now that they’ve met the new owner,” she added.
The Bakers have seen some dramatic changes in the restaurant industry over the past two decades, particularly in the bar and with dinner menus.
Craft cocktails and microbrews are the rage, and organic, vegan, sustainable, local, farm-to-table small plates are on every hip menu. “Coffee shop“ means something slightly different today than it did 20 years ago.
Very few indie restaurants attempt to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a testament to the Bakers’ work ethic that they’ve been able to do that and do it so well these many years. As if that were not enough, they’ve always got some great seasonal specials on their monthly specials sheet as well. In the fall, you’ll find a selection of autumn comfort foods at surprisingly reasonable prices.
In a way, they have been the victims of their own success. How do you succeed in the restaurant world? Work harder than than the rest — but working harder leaves little time for leisure activities.
There’ve been a few bumps in the road along the way. In 1999, they experienced a pretty serious fire that shut them down for six months. When they reopened, virtually the entire staff returned to Chanterelle, which also speaks well of the Bakers.
They’ve developed cordial relationships with many of their regular diners. Among that number they can include many city councilmembers, Rick Steves, Governors Christine Gregoire and Jay Inslee, mayors Gary Haakensen and Dave Earling. (I’m probably leaving out a potentate or two, my apologies.)
When gubernatorial candidate Inslee appeared at a forum that Brooke Baker attended, much to her amazement the first words out of his mouth were, “I just ate at Randy and Brooke Baker’s Chanterelle and had the best tomato bisque in the country.”
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling has his own table, and noted that Chanterelle “for years” has been a favorite spot for himself and his wife Susan. “Their devotion and attention to the quality of staff, service, and food has been amazing,” Earling said. “Ninety percent of the time, Brooke or Randy are on site with that devotion in mind. They will be missed.”
Hoa (pronounced Wah) Tran has worked his way up from mopping floors and doing dishes to being the owner of four Puget Sound restaurants. Along with Chanterelle, Tran has Pete’s Egg Nest in Greenwood, and two The Egg and Us restaurants — one in Ballard and one in Issaquah. When he came to Edmonds to take a look at Chanterelle, he fell in love with it instantly.
Tran’s only reluctance came at the prospect of taking on yet another restaurant. He decided to wait two weeks, and if it were still available, make an offer on it. The time passed very slowly, because he really loved the character and charm of the place. It reminded him of a restaurant where he had been chef for many years. The two weeks passed, he made an offer and is now officially the new owner.
Both the Bakers and Tran have enjoyed working together on the transition. Tran’s immediate goal is to put everyone at ease. If menu changes happen, they will be minor ones. He really likes what the Bakers have done with the place.
Stepping away from the business will enable the Bakers to spend more time together and to travel. Brooke hopes to be able to accept more invitations to social engagements and get to yoga more often. Randy will be able to practice more taekwondo and volunteer more with Snohomish County Search and Rescue.
A look of shock comes over some of the regulars when they hear the news. But the Bakers are firmly planted in Edmonds and have no plans to move.
As Brooke Baker says: “Come in and say hi, and meet Hoa. But there’s no need to say bye. We’ll see you around town!”
James Spangler is guest writing the Edmonds Restaurant News column while Kathy Passage takes a break.