• at home & in the kitchen with
    AT HOME AND IN THE KITCHEN WITH JEREMY PRICE
    Co-Owner of 'The Walrus & The Carpenter' and 'The Whale Wins,' Seattle
    Sept 16, 2014  |  BY TARIQ DIXON
    Less than five years ago, Jeremy spent his days working at a biotech company, surrounded mostly by co-workers nearly twice his age. As respite from the stodgy office, he moonlighted a few nights a week as a busser and bartender at Seattle's Boat Street Kitchen. But when Chef Renee Erickson learned of his carpentry and woodworking skills, she put him to work building new banquettes. The two hit it off, and Jeremy humbly (but somewhat jokingly) mentioned that he'd love to work with her on any future projects. A few months later, she unexpectedly called his bluff.

    Renee was opening a new restaurant and needed a right hand. To Jeremy's delight and surprise, she enlisted him as her business partner, to design the space and run its operations. With the help of a third partner and property developer Chad Dale, the team drafted plans for remodeling the old marine casting factory, while Jeremy built all of its tables, bookcases and banquettes by hand. Soon after, 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' had become one of Bon Appetit's '10 Best New Restaurants' and Seattle's hands-down favorite place for oysters on the half shell (a claim not taken lightly in the Puget Sound).

    When we visited the restaurant this past fall, a line extended down its long hallway well before the start of 4pm Happy Hour. But once the doors open, the energy never dwindles, as restaurant-goers clamor for a seat in the cozy, forty-seat establishment.
    The mood deviates from a traditional oyster bar, as patrons enjoy shellfish with a humble bottle of Rainier (Seattle's preferred, but modest ale), while jamming to early 90s R&B tunes. The restaurant's more casual vibe extends to its choice furnishings - undoubtedly tasteful and unique, but "nothing too precious," says Jeremy.

    The Walrus' success has allowed the partners to open an adjacent bar called Barnacle, along with a second restaurant, The Whale Wins. Between the two restaurants, the new bar and a food truck, it goes without saying that Jeremy is kept sufficiently busy.

    As relief from the the restaurant's bustle, Jeremy retires to a calm and intentionally sparse apartment. "Things at work are so crazy, that it's nice for my home to be a place for my eyes to breathe and relax," he says. But despite its restraint, the home maintains a definite warmth and comfort, thanks largely to the inclusion of dark wood and other natural textures. While Jeremy's home offers refuge from a hectic work life, he still keeps subtle reminders of the job close by, like the sculpture of a whale (an assumed ode to The Whale Wins) centrally placed on his coffee table.

    Take a look into Jeremy's exciting, new life as a restauranteur with tours of his two restaurants and of his beautifully restrained home.
  • How did you, Renee and Chad originally come together as a team?

    Chad actually found Renee. He was working as a property developer, and had purchased the building Walrus is in. He basically cold-called people he admired and asked if they wanted to move into the space. “Hey! I've got a building! Do you want to put a restaurant in it?” When Chad approached Renee with the opportunity, she totally called my bluff and asked if I wanted to join as her partner. One of Renee's great qualities is collecting people. She has a rare trait to not have an ego about it at all, and gives me free reign to do all of the collateral stuff. It's been a really great partnership.

  • What's your process for designing and furnishing the restaurants?

    It starts with the layout. I'll do a few sketches of where everything should go, and then start to think about the number of tables we'll need, what type of lights, etc. But my favorite part is actually looking for the furnishings themselves. I like a mix of new and old, and will search all of the country for the right pieces. The farm sink at The Whale Wins is from this old curmudgeon-y guy in New York, who initially didn't even want to sell it to us, while the lights are from some lady in Wisconsin who only salvages vintage fixtures from the 1930s. What we do with food is really interesting, but the design components of the restaurants are equally important to the experience.

  • It seemed like there was space for us to do something that was super-casual, but still high-end. It's a loud bar where you see everything happening, but with an amazing menu.

  • You've created a really unique vibe at The Walrus. What were the thoughts behind it?

    There are places in the world - like Normandy or Paris - where oysters are a casual and accessible. In America, we normally enjoy them at a steakhouse and it's this big deal. It seemed like there was space for us to do something that was super-casual, but still high-end. It's a loud bar where you see everything happening, but with an amazing menu.

    Regarding the design, we wanted to give a nod to old-school oyster bars with the zinc countertop, but overall, nothing here is too precious. When I was younger I was really attracted to sleek spaces, but it's really a losing battle trying to maintain that! I really came to fall in love with patina - letting things age and wearing them in. I think it's healthier that way.

  • What about the mood or environment for your home?

    I'm actually divorced, and we lived together in this apartment for five years. When she left I was really conscious of starting fresh. I kept to what I love, which is white-on-white-on-white, but tried to warm it up a bit with things like dark browns and organic-finished woods. There's been this recent infatuation with reclaimed everything - wood, steel, etc. - but I love the lightness of this place. It's airy and bright.

    I am always shopping for the restaurants, so if I find something that I love, I bring it back here. I've kinda stopped though, because I don't like too much. I've really tried to make it a calm space. Things at work are so crazy, that it's nice for my home to be a place for my eyes to breathe and relax. I need that!

  • ...
    "Those are actually wood-backed postage stamps from China. I got them here in Seattle, but just mounted them with pins in these shadow boxes."
    - Jeremy Price
  • I've really tried to make it a calm space. Things at work are so crazy, that it's nice for my home to be a place for my eyes to breathe and relax. I need that!

  • shop the story
  • ...
    "I've been collecting the hat molds for awhile. I bought two at once which really started the collection, and have had them move around the apartment as the collection's grown. The white stuff is actually lime, which they put on them to get the hats to release.
  • When I was younger I was really attracted to sleek spaces, but...I really came to fall in love with patina - letting things age and wearing them in. I think it's healthier that way.

  • ...
    "I found those leather pulls and had them put on this super clean cabinet. They're a nice finish.
  • I kept to what I love, which is white-on-white-on-white, but tried to warm it up a bit with things like dark browns and organic-finished woods.

  • ...
    "The centerpiece of the restaurant is this wood-fire oven. It's 8 ft x 12 ft - huge! A lot of times, when you see these in restaurants, they are actually gas-assisted, meaning the wood is kinda for show. This is the real deal - we throw the wood right in. We keep this thing going all the time - it never cools down!
  • shop the story
  • ...
    "This painting is where we got the name for the restaurant. The artist, Mary Maguire, used to be an editor of Harpers Bazaar, but retired, and started to do this folksy, New England-y artwork. We saw this, and thought the name was perfect.
  • What we do with food is really interesting, but the design components of the restaurants are equally important to the experience.

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