Corner House has new partners (Leigh Sullivan!), a new menu and a new chef
Back in late November, when Matt Selby, the opening exec chef and a partner in the Corner House (he's now the exec chef of Central) departed ways with majority owners and partners Scott Kinsey and James Iacino, president of Seattle Fish, the Jefferson Park restaurant closed for a few days to regroup. And in the months since then, there have been numerous changes, including the hiring of a new chef, the implementation of a new menu and the hiring of two additional partners: Leigh Sullivan and Travis Plakke, both of whom are lifelong veterans of the restaurant industry.
"When Matt left, his ownership shares were transferred back to James, who then gave the shares to me and Travis -- and he also named us operating partners and general managers, which basically means that we're at the Corner House all the time, managing the staff and running the restaurant," says Sullivan, who also owns Leigh Sullivan Enterprises, a company that, up until she became a partner in the Corner House, provided public relations expertise to several Denver restaurants, including the Corner House. "From a personal perspective," adds Sullivan, "I'm no longer a restaurant consultant because of the conflict of interest, but I've been a part of the Corner House since its inception, and I love everything about it, so it just made sense for me to become an owner."
And, notes Sullivan, who opened several big-name restaurants with her ex-husband Troy Guard, who owns TAG, TAG Raw Bar, TAG Burger Bar and the forthcoming Guard & Grace, running restaurants is in her blood. "To be honest, I've really missed being in the restaurant business, and there hasn't been a single day where I haven't wanted to get back into it: I love all the day-to-day stuff that comes with running a restaurant," she says, adding that while she's no longer representing restaurants, Leigh Sullivan Enterprises is still going strong, and her current client list, which includes Seattle Fish and FIVE, will
soon take on new client: "I'm helping these two amazing soccer mom ladies launch a new liquor brand called Queen City Spirits, a company that makes these really unique, delicious and all-natural flavored vodkas, and we'll launch it just as soon as we get the logo approved," reveals Sullivan.
In the meantime, she's concentrating on her new chef at the Corner House, Sharif Villa Cruz, who previously cooked at TAG, Row 14, Paxia, where he was the exec chef and, most recently, Jax, Glendale, where he commanded the grill and saute station. "The guy is just badass," enthuses Sullivan. "He's got an amazing palate, he's a good person, he has an amazing work ethic and he has really high morals, all of which are important. I'm super-psyched to be working with him again," she adds.
And Cruz's menu, notes Sullivan, leans toward seafood, which I always believed should have been the focus of Corner House from the beginning, especially given the fact that Iacino has access to just about everything that swims in the sea. "We have a tiny kitchen with no grease trap and no hood, so we're limited in terms of what we can do, and we have to be creative with our cooking techniques," explains Sullivan, but seafood, she says, "lends itself to that kind of kitchen setup."