Renee resides in a charming house in Ballard with a garden much like that of the Boat Street Cafe. She shares her home with Jeffry her white Labrador, and Mitza and Lucca ,one sweet and one feisty cat.
Renee is both an artist and a cook which shows in everything she does.
While getting her degree from the University of Washington, Renee began her food career by taking on an apprenticeship (aka job) with Susan Kaplan, the original owner of the Boat Street Cafe. Renee was such an astute student and so much fun to be with that she was encouraged to stay on and in due time buy the cafe. That she flatly refused and wisely went off to Italy and France to learn more about food and wine.
The experience 'took' and Renee came back a confirmed foodie. But when she was next asked if she'd like to own the Boat Street, she again demurred. Undaunted, Susan Kaplan sold it to her anyway and Renee proved her metal by managing to cope with a motley staff of relatives
and friends after the original Boat Street staff quit at the prospect of onsite management.
Since that early experience, Renee has earned her stripes many times over. Retaining much of the original menu and philosophy,
Renee perfected the Cafe and made it her own. Despite the demands of her job, she made time to sneak away for extended wine
trips, vineyard experiences, and cooking school. To the benefit of all, her ever expanding knowledge of wine and food was put to
good use at the cafe which became a 'well known secret.'
In 2003, the Boat Street Cafe lost its lease and its building was torn down. To fill in the gap, while searching for a new location, she and
her former boss, Susan, conceived of the Boat Street Kitchen, a sort of adjunct to the Boat Street Cafe where both Susan and Renee
could have fun and make a living, working together with food.
Thus was born the Boat Street Kitchen, which still offers cooking classes, corporate catering, personal catering, lunch, brunch, and private parties.
Fortunately, in the spring of 2005, Susan and Renee found the perfect spot to reincarnate the original Boat Street. Opened in October of 2005, the 3131 Western Ave. location now houses both Renee's Boat Street Cafe, and their joint venture, the Boat Street Kitchen.
The new Boat Street has flourished. Proudly, we announce that the Boat Street Cafe was recently named a best Chef Inspired Restaurant by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. Although Renee has already made her mark on the Seattle restaurant scene, that hasn't slowed down her intense desire to learn more about food. This year she has extruded pasta, cured meats, foraged for mushrooms, made more pickles than your grandmother, and also and mostly, tasted wine. She is definitely getting to where she was going all along.
Le restaurant? Only a little further. You see, Renee always she suffers for the food.
Susan Kaplan, the original owner of the Boat Street Cafe, resides in a charming houseboat on Lake Union with Anling her now 10 year old daughter, Jupiter, Anling's cat, and Eleanor, Jupiter's dog. The interior is spartan and light, much like the original Boat Street and contains a small but wonderful kitchen where Anling displays her prowess in the kitchen.
In between life, Susan is almost always thinking about food.
Susan began an intense interest in the subject long ago while living in Cambridge Massachusetts where she bought two seminal books - Julia Child's Volumes I and II. There she fell in love with cooking, reading about cooking, and on occasion, actually doing some cooking. Those were the days when you could buy caul fat at an ordinary supermarket, at least in Boston, and when you might make a friend Duck a l'Orange, even on a weekday night.
Since that time, Susan has both maintained a conservative mainstream career and indulged in her penchant for food and design by traveling, eating, joining food clubs, giving cooking classes, taking cooking classes, and periodically starting food ventures.
Among these, her first restaurant, appropriately named Caprice, managed to obtain '4 forks' from the local Atlanta food rating group. Her unique menu which included Bouillabaisse, stuffed squid, stuffed veal breast, numerous types of pesto, crayfish with aioli, and blackberry cobbler was a moonlighting success. However, the exhilaration of working all day and cooking all night, was of limited appeal.
A short course entitled "How to Sail Around the World on Other People's Boats and Make Money in Foreign Lands", ended the affair, inspiring a year long trip around the world, 'on the cheap', which not only stretched her eating horizons, but solidified her belief in the importance of simple foods, well prepared, eaten with family and friends. Additional food oriented stints include cooking on boats in the Carribean and founding Cibo, a torta and pesto business.
The well known Boat Street Cafe was the outcome of another creative urge - this time to create the Northwest equivalent of a Caribbean open air restaurant where one can be dressed or not, eat, enjoy the stars, chat, and relax. The spot that fit that vision was the Boat Street Cafe - originally a beaten down cinder block building with fixed windows and a large aluminum window where the double doors came to be. Yes it was surrounded by dirt, it leaked, it had 60 amp service, it had rudimentary plumbing, holes in the walls, and other minor inconveniences. But, it also had a hidden charm and great light. With the help of friends it was transformed into a 'no grease cooking' restaurant which informed all of the Boat Street's cooking, and probably led to Susan's eventual desire to own a donut shop where she could fry to her heart's content. Oh well. What we don't know!
The advent of a child and breast cancer, as well as the serendipitous arrival of Renee, brought Susan's ownership of the Boat Street to a happy end as Renee perfected the place Susan had only begun.
Unfortunately, despite a job, a child, and other concerns, Susan began to hanker after another food business. Thinking fondly of home fried donuts and apple cider, and imagining a re-creation of blissful autumns in the Maine countryside, she opened Sophie's Donuts featuring handmade donuts in a town where people eat just one donut at a time and fear fat as much as they fear interlopers.
Despite the limited success of Sophie's Donuts, the shop was fortuitously able to sustain the Boat Street through its homeless period and provided both Renee and Susan with both the challenges and pleasures of working together again.. Fortunately, the partnership formed (Boat Street Kitchen) when the old Boat Street closed has survived the demise of Sophie's Donuts and now resides in tandem with the Boat Street Cafe.
Susan no longer works at a conventional job and instead spends her days at the Boat Street Kitchen. Nights often find her catering or teaching cooking school. In short, although she rarely does computer work anymore, she still works all of the time.
The one and only Jeffry whose portrait now appears in the Cafe
The one and only Anling, Age 8
Original Blackboard "Dancing Chihuahuas"
by Curtis Steiner
Originally Posted October 2005
About Susan, original owner of the Boat Street Café, and Renee, current owner of the Boat Street Café,
and how they came to co-own..
THE BOAT STREET KITCHEN