End of an Era: Thierry Rautureau is Closing Rover's

Leslie Kelly
Thierry Rautureau
Iconic chef Thierry Rautureau in front of Luc, his Madison Valley restaurant

When Eater Seattle broke the news that Rover’s was for sale and its iconic Chef in the Hat was ready to move on to new projects, the reaction was immediate and heartfelt.

“Within minutes of the news coming out, the phone rang like crazy and hundreds of emails poured in. People are in shock but happy and excited about the news,” said Thierry Rautureau, whose newer and more casual Luc remains a going concern. The space is for sale, but Rover's is "turning off the lights," Thierry explained on Facebook

If you’re kicking yourself that you haven’t been into Rover's lately – or ever – better snag a reservation soon before it closes next spring. It will be the last chance to sup at one of the city’s finest fine dining destinations, a place that was the original farm-to-table restaurant, way back before that was cool. Chef Thierry introduced diners to so many wonderful firsts, including almost single-handedly encouraging the growth of the fledgling artisan cheese movement in this part of the world. Merci for that!

Many food lovers have stories to tell of memorable meals at this landmark restaurant in Madison Valley. In the 1990s, I was invited to a special dinner there hosted by Nathan Myhrvold and Julia Child. Yes, the JULIA CHILD! It was beyond epic in terms of the food and wine and company, but the lasting memory was of Chef Thierry schmoozing with the group of luminairies, as chill as a bowl of vichyssoise. Not shaking in his kitchen clogs cooking for the legendary French Chef, no sir.

At Rover's, Thierry has cooked for all sorts of A-listers, chefs and celebs: Jacques Pepin, Jean-Louis Palladin, Eric Ripert, Michel Richard, Rick Bayless, Don Pintabona, Debbie Gold, Takashi Yagihashi, Chris Cosentino, Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Ken Frank, Tom Douglas, as well as Oliver Stone, Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Peter Gabriel, Sound Garden, Francis Ford Coppola, Sissy Spacek, Ewan Mc Gregor, Jackson Browne, Nathan Myhrvold, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Craig and John McCaw, Jeff Bezos, Dale Chihuly and many more.

Thierry recalled when the late Jean-Louis Palladin finished an eight-course meal and popped into the back of the house: “He told me ‘If you had a big kitchen, you would be really dangerous’.”

While it’s not even close to the time to cue the funeral dirge, it’s worth mourning the end of an era, and the slow, but steady disappearance of formal dining in Seattle. There are fewer white linen tablecloth kind of places, spots where you can dress up and celebrate special occasions. (And drop big bucks.)

It’s tempting to blame the recession, but the casualization of dining has been going on for much longer. If I had to blame anything, it would probably be the advent of cell phones. Have you been to a restaurant lately where you haven’t seen one or more cell phone addicts at nearly ever table checking their Facebook page or posting an Instagram of every bite? How can fine dining flourish in our hand-held culture? 

OK, so maybe that’s a stretch, but here’s the point: If you appreciate fancy restaurants that offer a chance to dress up, especially around the holidays, don’t forget to show them a little love. And that goes double for Rover’s!