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Michelle Magidow, Union Saloon

Michelle went into full-time restaurant work when she was 20 and cooked for 20 years. She never attended culinary school, she just started working. "Having six things coming at you at the same time in the kitchen is where you really learn," she says.

Her first job was in a deli. "It was an iconic moment for me. They taught me how to flip eggs by putting three flats of eggs in front of me and saying, 'over easy,' 'over hard,' 'scrambled' - just fired at me."

In the '80s, she moved to San Luis Bay Inn, a large place with a catering kitchen, dining room, bar, wine steward. It was big and they did a lot of weddings. "I learned all kinds of things there. When the pastry chef was going on vacation, I trained with her before she went. I waited tables. I was the only girl on the line in the kitchen, so they put me on the buffet."

She left to manage a small coffee house, then moved to Seattle in 1989, and got a job at Le Taste de Vin. "I was the first woman to cook on the line there. It was challenging and hysterical. I had to put a milk crate near the stove because the pans were hung so high I couldn't reach them. I learned a lot there, including how to stand up for myself. I drew the line one night and left while we were cleaning and figured they'd fire me. No one called, so I went back to work, and from that moment on, I was an equal." She worked for quite a while at Sweet Life Café in Snohomish, then moved to Paris.

When she returned from Paris, she began working at Salumi where she was Armandino Batali's sous chef, as well as working front of the house. She worked their well-known Friday night dinners and realized she had a love for customer service, the interaction between people. When Armandino's daughter and husband came in, she moved on to make room for them.

Moving to Harvest Vine, she spent three nights in the kitchen and two on the floor. "I loved that mix; I could be creative in the kitchen and have the interaction on the floor."

In the late '90s, she traveled extensively, through France, Spain, and Italy, and began learning about wine. "I love using that knowledge when I work on the floor."

Lark approached her and she joined them for ten years, working the floor and sharing FoH management with Kelly Ronan. When they opened the bar Licorous two doors down, she joined John Sundstrom, Kelly, and J.M. Enos as a partner. When Licorous closed, she felt it was time to learn something new.

She moved to The Walrus and the Carpenter, staying about a year. "They had a great team and business was booming. But it wasn't me. It was so busy, I couldn't really engage with the customers. It wasn't a real neighborhood spot; you didn't get to know people through repetition because new people were always coming in. A good problem to have, just not my place."

From there, she went to Delancey. "It was the right time for all of us. Molly Wizenberg's book came out. Molly and Brandon Pettit were doing a good job and business was growing. I implemented a wine program and created a better-functioning dining room." She was there about four years.

That's when it was time to put all her ideas and experience into her own place, Union Saloon, which opened in 2017, in the Wallingford neighborhood.

July 2022

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