15 Minutes with Shaker & Spear Executive Chef Carolynn Spence

Shaker & Spear executive chef talks pet peeves and her "Spence-centric" cuisine

After a decade at Los Angeles’ famed Chateau Marmont hotel, Carolynn Spence packed up her three pixie-bob cats (a Washington breed) to lead the kitchen of the Palladian Hotel’s Shaker & Spear downtown, a position recently vacated by Tulio’s Walter Pisano. Here’s what makes her tick.

» Los Angeles to Seattle. Why? The geography, the feel of the city. My parents say it’s like Greenwich Village from the 1980s. The venues and coffee shops and artsy people. I just love it.

» Name drop. Any Marmont regulars make your palms sweaty?
Terence Stamp, the British actor who played General Zod in the original Superman. He had this booming, theatrical voice and loved to talk about food. He was so lovely and charming.

» What Seattleite would you most like to cook for, and why?
A rock ’n’ roller. Mark Arm from Mudhoney or members of The Sonics. I just love the access to music here. Los Angeles has a music scene, too, but Seattle is more rock ’n’ roll to me.

Spence’s culinary tattoos include a riff on “speak/hear/see no evil” with a celery, carrot and onion. PHOTO CREDIT: Logan Smith

» Where can we find you when you’re not in the kitchen?
Taylor Shellfish. Din Tai Fung for pork dumplings. I love dive-y big breakfasts at Hattie’s Hat, The 5 Point Cafe and Easy Street Records café.


thaifusions: Ryan Dunn Photography 2016; spence headshot: 
Charity Burggraaf; inset: logan smit

» So, how would you describe your cuisine in one line?
Spence-centric. I don’t do fusion. I just try to keep it European and American and have fun with the ingredients, and let the customer drive me, too.

» Any pet peeves yet?
Yes. The dives are fun, but the fine dining restaurants are too serious. There’s no joy, and I’m hoping to change that. Dining is a celebration. I want to make out with whoever I dine with. Why is everyone so serious here? We have an open kitchen, so that helps, but when I started, the whole staff was so serious. I was like, “Calm down. Tell a joke. Relax. Give the people sitting here some food and shoot the sh*t with them."

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