It’s not unusual when one of our island restaurants or wineries earns a kudos or two from our local and regional press. Greg Atkinson’s Marche comes to mind, along with Eleven Winery and Bruciato in downtown Winslow.
But now there is national acclaim being showered on one of Bainbridge’s most recognizable chefs. Brendan McGill’s newest fine-dining experience – Seabird, also located on Winslow Way – was recently selected by Esquire magazine as one of the 40 Best New Restaurants in America. McGill’s eatery was ranked No. 12 in Esquire’s 40th annual list, while chef Brady Ishiwata Williams’ Tomo, located in White Center, was ranked No. 30. (Check out the complete list at: https://www.esquire.com/food-drink/restaurants/a41788671/best-new-restaurants-in-america-2022/.
McGill is not your typical chef or restaurant owner. He continuously experiments with new concepts to test out his ideas and to weigh the public’s tastes for those notions. His Hitchcock Restaurant Group has five distinctive restaurants under wing, along with Shady Acres, a four-acre parcel on Bainbridge where he and farming partners grow locally sourced food.
His restaurants include the aforementioned Seabird and Bruciato, along with Café Hitchcock on Bainbridge, Café Hitchcock in Seattle and Bar Solea, also in Seattle.
Indeed, McGill is a combination of your classic culinary artist and hard-driving entrepreneur. He wears earrings on either ear, is heavily tattooed on his arms and legs and is sometimes seen wearing either a fedora or a turnaround baseball cap – a la Ken Griffey Jr. – on his head. If you were to run into him on the street, you might think he was a musician heading to a gig, or an aging skateboarder searching for a challenging bit of sidewalk.
But appearances can be deceiving.
McGill is street-wise and industry savvy, we discovered during a face-to-face interview a few years back. He did not attend college or the finer culinary schools, such as Cordon Bleu. Instead he learned his craft on the job, “grinding it out every day,” and later got a degree from the Art Institute of Seattle, where, he says, he paid “a little more attention (than his fellow students) to the cost-containment classes.”
The restaurateur grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska to parents who were both teachers. Foreign languages were spoken in his home and his Dad dabbled in cabinet making. They taught him to value hard work and encouraged him to find his way in the world.
McGill did just that. He began working in restaurants at age 14 while growing up in Fairbanks, and literally learned the business from the ground up: working as a dishwasher, busboy, back bar person and doorman. During the heady days of Seattle’s tech-boom infancy, back in the 1990s, he met “all these local business celebrities.”
Among them was Michael McConnell, owner of Café Vita, and other well-known finer Seattle restaurateurs, who eventually became one of his future business partners. Another acquaintance was the owner of IL Bistro, who McGill worked with for two years as a chef.
His big break came when, at the tender age of 24, he was hired by David Selig, the son of Seattle developer Martin Selig, to operate “The Apartment,” a small, innovative, upscale restaurant, also located in Bell Town. From there, his culinary star began to rise and it’s never really stopped climbing.
According to a recent piece in The Seattle Times on the Esquire award, the magazine’s editors — Jeff Gordinier, Joshua David Stein, Omar Mamoon, and Kevin Sintumuang — wrote that they were always “hooked when there is soul and a story to go with delicious, inventive dishes. It’s hard to deny the reflection of lived experience imbued in a menu, a wine list, a cocktail, atmosphere.”
McGill’s Bainbridge Island hyper-local seafood-focused Seabird – which opened last spring – drew the attention of the editors for the restaurant’s “creamy uni French toast, halibut ceviche with zippy leche de tigre and jalapeño crema, and sablefish in a delicate almond broth fortified with spicy salsa macha.”
McGill responded to the accolades on Instagram, the paper noted, by saying, “It is truly humbling for our little island restaurant to make a splash that can be heard across the country, especially in the wake of the challenges of the last few years.” For more info on Brendan McGill visit: https://www.hitchcockrestaurant.com/
*Images courtesy of www.hitchcockrestaurant.com and Bryan Millmore
To subscribe to The Island Wanderer Blog, click here.
To read more articles from The Island Wanderer Blog website, click here.