Supplier Highlight – Taylor Shellfish

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2015 by The Gaucho Gridiron

What does it take to produce the fattest, juiciest bivalves around? We asked the best in the business, Taylor Shellfish, who has been farming oysters for five generations, to explain.

Thanks to clean water and nutrient-rich bays, the Pacific Northwest has the best shellfish around.

Thanks to clean water and nutrient-rich bays, the Pacific Northwest has the best shellfish around.

Chad Mackay, El Gaucho Hospitality President, is committed to sourcing the best products in the world for guests to enjoy. When it comes to seafood, he turns to locally owned Taylor Shellfish Farms.

Taylor Shellfish produces some of the best oysters and clams in the world, and they just happen to be in the Pacific Northwest,” says Mackay. “Just as location, or terroir, is important to making great wine, so too is location critical to growing great shellfish. And Taylor is in the right place.”

We’re talking about some pretty incredible geography in Western Washington and British Columbia: South Puget Sound, Hood Canal, Samish Bay, Port Angeles, Vancouver Island and Desolation Sound. Thanks to clean water and nutrient-rich bays, the Northwest has some of the best shellfish beds around. Taylor Shellfish Farms is dedicated to healthy watersheds and estuaries, and they were one of the first shellfish companies to have their farms certified as sustainable.

Taylor Shellfish Farms is five generations strong. Pictured here: Jeff Pearson, Paul and Bill Taylor

Taylor Shellfish Farms is five generations strong. Pictured here: Jeff Pearson, Paul and Bill Taylor

You might say that salt water is in the Taylor family’s blood. Bill and Paul Taylor began farming oysters as kids on Totten Inlet, where their great-grandfather, J. Y. Waldrip, had started the oyster business in 1889. Today, the brothers run the company with their brother-in-law Jeff Pearson, farming some of the same special tidelands from over a century ago. Many of their children have recently joined the family business, making it five generations strong.

With 10,000 acres now under ownership or lease, Taylor Shellfish Farms relies on micro-locations for a consistent supply to customers. “Every day is different based on the weather,” says Bill Taylor, president of Taylor Shellfish Farms and a fourth-generation farmer. “We monitor conditions carefully and shift production and harvesting as needed. Shellfish should come out of the water one day and be on the plate the next.”

Even though oysters can make it to your plate in a day, growing them takes a lot of time and attention. Starting out as seeds in hatcheries, oysters may move locations several times. The growing process takes about 18 months for Pacific oysters and up to four years for Kumamotos and Olympias. For Shigokus, Taylor floats the oysters in bags and allows the movement of the tide to create the deep shell cups and briny ocean flavor.

Join us at Taste Washington this year, March 28-29th at the CenturyLink Events Center. Along with Taylor Shellfish, our team shucks over 10,000 oysters for guests over the two-day event.

Join us at Taste Washington this year, March 28-29th at the CenturyLink Events Center. Along with Taylor Shellfish, our team shucks over 10,000 oysters for guests over the two-day event.

All of that careful, hands-on cultivation—coupled with great tidelands–results in the fattest, juiciest bivalves around.

For Mackay, who opened AQUA by El Gaucho at Pier 70 in 2000, sourcing the best oysters, clams and mussels is paramount. “We’ve trusted Taylor Shellfish as our supplier since we opened. The Taylors are an exceptional family and exceptional farmers,” he says.

That partnership leads to exceptional food. AQUA’s executive chef Wesley Hood creates menus featuring Taylor Shellfish Farms seafood, such as steamed manila clams with fennel and mussels in coconut milk and red curry. And there’s nothing quite like raw oysters on the half shell to deliver a sweet, briny taste as fresh as the smell of the sea.

Sourcing the very best products ensures unsurpassed flavor, the signature of El Gaucho restaurants.

There's nothing like raw oysters on the half shell to deliver a sweet, briny taste as fresh as the smell of the sea.

There’s nothing like raw oysters on the half shell to deliver a sweet, briny taste as fresh as the smell of the sea.

Wine Feature of the Month – Argyle Winery

Posted in Featured Wine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2015 by The Gaucho Gridiron

What image comes to mind when you hear “Argyle?” Socks, maybe a sweater? The various colored, diamond pattern is quite discernable, and can be traced back to the tartan of a Scottish clan. Without a doubt, the classic pattern has withstood the test of time.

Blog Argyle Label close upWhen famed Australian winemaker Brian Croser and Texan Rollin Soles joined forces in 1987 to build a winery in the Willamette Valley, they had numerous, yet a couple of requirements, for a name: “They wanted a name that was reflective of quality,” says Cathy Martin, spokesman for Argyle Winery. “There is a diamond mine in Australia with the name Argyle. Brian and Rollin figured that was a good image to shoot for, and that is where the diamond logo associated with Argyle came from.” Cathy continues, “They also wanted a name that would fit into the Scottish sounding town of Dundee.” Thus the wine brand Argyle was born.

Their approach worked – the diamond is still used in their branding today, and the foundational community mindset, by aspiring to contribute to the local area, is still an integral part of the culture at Argyle 28 years later.

Argyle farms 400 acres in two of the 16 Oregon AVAs.  Pictured here, the Knudsen Vineyard, located in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley.

Argyle farms 400 acres in two of the 16 Oregon AVAs. Pictured here, the Knudsen Vineyard, located in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley.

Just as the history of the Argyle pattern has a rich and lasting history, so does the new world winery: co-founder Brian Croser is an Australian winemaking legend and one of the most famous figures in the wine world. He founded Petaluma winery in the 1970s, and one of his contributions to the industry was his advocation for what’s called “reductive wine making,” which is especially important for making white wines: by using stainless steel, inert gases and temperature control, fruit flavors are preserved, by protecting the must (the freshly pressed juice containing the skins, seeds, and stems) and evolving wine from oxygen exposure. This is one of the reasons for the success of the Australian wine industry in the 1980s.

Croser joined forces with a Petaluma co-worker, Texan Rollin Soles, to stake a claim in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The winery was created to make cool climate sparkling wine, today also produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.

Argyle is the new world’s highest rated sparkling wine producer.

Argyle is the new world’s highest rated sparkling wine producer.

Argyle has earned an international reputation for producing world-class methode champenoise sparkling wine, silky-textured pinot noir, and barrel-fermented chardonnay. Argyle is the only winery to have reached the Wine Spectator Top 100 for white, red and sparkling wines. It’s also the new world’s highest rated sparkling wine producer.

Argyle farms 400 acres in two of the 16 Oregon AVAs. The Knudsen Vineyard is located in the Dundee Hills; while Lone Star and Spirit Hill Vineyards are located a little further south in the Eola-Amity Hills AVAs. All grapes are hand harvested into small baskets and transported to the winery. Grapes are chilled overnight before crushing, to preserve the ripe fruit characteristics and naturally limit oxidation.

El Gaucho Portland is proud to feature four special wines under the Argyle label for the month of February:

El Gaucho Portland is proud to feature four Argyle wines for the month of February.

El Gaucho Portland is proud to feature four Argyle wines for the month of February.

2011 Argyle Brut, 90 Points, Wine Spectator. Tasting notes indicate the bright acidity lends itself to a long, energetic finish, “begging for oysters.” El Gaucho is currently offering Brookside and Shigoku oysters on the half shell, for a match made in heaven.

2012 Nuthouse Chardonnay – “brings dreams of char-grilled crustaceans and blackened squid.” Pair it with the expertly grilled Hawaiian Mahi Mahi with Citrus Segments and Beurre Blanc from El Gaucho’s fresh sheet.

2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – “an honest interpretation of the Willamette Valley.” This wine’s refreshing acidity cuts through even our heartiest dishes. Try it with El Gaucho’s Estancia Grass Fed Filet Mignon with Bordelaise sauce or our Frenched Rib Chop.

2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, 92 Points, Wine Spectator. The gorgeous, clean fruit and silky texture make it perfect to share with our classic center cut Chateaubriand and cliff sauce. “A true celebration in balance.”

The Argyle story includes a relentless pursuit of the finest red, white and sparkling wines, and El Gaucho is proud to offer these fine wines on our list.

Meet Sarah Scott, Executive Chef at El Gaucho Bellevue

Posted in Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on February 6, 2015 by The Gaucho Gridiron

We are excited to feature the talented people behind the scenes – those who create and prepare the tasty treats that we all get to enjoy in our restaurants. Each month we will be introducing you to the gifted and passionate individuals who make up our culinary team. Bon Appétit!

Sarah Scott, or “Sarita” as her coworkers call her, is El Gaucho’s newest – and youngest - Executive Chef.

Sarah Scott, or “Sarita” as her coworkers call her, is El Gaucho’s newest – and youngest – Executive Chef.

“I live to eat!” Sarah exclaims. “Half the fun is being hungry enough to try new things.”

Sarah Scott, or “Sarita” as her coworkers call her, is El Gaucho’s newest – and youngest – Executive Chef. She was promoted last fall at just 27 years old, which makes her one of the few female chefs who has taken the reins of a prominent American steakhouse in the country.

Sarah grew up in Winter Park, Florida. In the summer, while a teenager, she worked at her mother’s architectural office as a receptionist/secretary and realized she would never be satisfied working behind a desk. Cooking was always a favorite hobby – she and her mom would frequent local farmer’s markets on Saturdays, and she recalls going to the grocery store to walk the aisles and “awe” at the new ingredients. Her mom encouraged her to experiment and cook new things, and her dad was always a happy guinea pig, gobbling up everything she created (even if it wasn’t the best, she adds). “Both my parents were always pushing me forward, and willing to go with whatever crazy food idea I had,” she says.

Sarah with her mom in Chicago last summer.

Sarah with her mom in Chicago last summer.

She studied hospitality management in college, and while there, got a job as a pantry cook and found her calling. “Within seven months, I was promoted to a line cook and became addicted to the high-stress/intense environment of the kitchen,” she says.

Once she started in the kitchen, she never looked back. Becoming Executive Chef at El Gaucho Bellevue last year is her proudest career accomplishment, although she also fondly remembers being promoted to the lead line cook at a 500 cover/night restaurant when she was just 20 years old.

Sarah joined the El Gaucho team in 2008 when Bellevue opened, and worked her way through every station to the top. When asked what life has been like since she’s been promoted, she laughs, “It’s a lot more hours and stress.” There is an upside, too: “I have more freedom to try new things, through specials and tweaking existing menu items for lunch, dinner and happy hour,” Sarah explains. She is especially proud of “modernizing” the Private Dining Menu, while maintaining the classic El Gaucho standard. Changes include revamping the cheese boards (“they’re impressive,” she says), adding truffle mac and cheese spoons, and burger truffle sliders. Everything has been well received.

Sarah experiencing her first 3-star Michelin restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago last year with her family. Alinea Chef Grant Achatz also pictured.

Sarah experiencing her first 3-star Michelin restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago last year with her family. Alinea Chef Grant Achatz also pictured.

For inspiration, Sarah loves to browse magazines and food blogs, but admits she’s “slightly sheltered” because she doesn’t own – or watch – TV. She also looks to Chicago, New York, and San Francisco for food trends: Last July she traveled to Chicago, and the first spot on her list was dining at 3-star Michelin restaurant, Alinea. “It was a mind-blowing experience,” she says. “I met the chef and got a tour of the kitchen. It opened my eyes to flavor and texture combinations. I never realized how in-depth one could go. Everything was incredible,” she exclaims.

When dining out, Sarah looks for great food with a laid back atmosphere. Harbor City in the International District for dim sum is one of her favorites. “I talk in butchered Chinese as nice as I can, smile a lot, and I’m set,” she laughs. She’s adventurous with trying new things, too: alligator, blood sausage, yak and Uni are among the most exotic foods she’s eaten. Once she made a moose stew for her family using what her uncle had brought back from a hunting trip. Is there any food she doesn’t like? “American cheese and bologna,” she says without skipping a beat. What does she like best about working at El Gaucho? “I get to work with the highest quality ingredients available,” she says.

Sarah with her boyfriend Ryan Brandenburg, exploring West Seattle.

Sarah with her boyfriend Ryan Brandenburg, exploring West Seattle.

To relax, Sarah loves visiting Redwood National Park and kicking back with a Manhattan with an extra cherry. She also loves music, and frequents local venues in her new neighborhood, Capitol Hill. “I love listening to the local flavor, whether it’s funk, indie, or rock,” she says. Sarah herself is a musician – she played bass trombone at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, admitting she almost majored in music performance. Thankfully for us and our taste buds, she didn’t!

Want to taste Sarah’s latest creation? Then head down to El Gaucho Bellevue, Monday – Friday starting at 11:30am, Saturday and Sunday starting at 5pm.

Sarah trying her hand at driving a John Deere.

Sarah trying her hand at driving a John Deere.

Employee Highlight – Tony Capra, El Gaucho Bellevue General Manager

Posted in Behind the Scenes on January 22, 2015 by The Gaucho Gridiron
Tony Capra, El Gaucho Bellevue General Manager

Tony Capra, El Gaucho Bellevue General Manager

“The older I get, the less I think of accomplishments or steps in the ladder. Rather, I try to be a good person on a day-to-day basis, do right by people, and become a more fair and just person,” Tony explains. “I’m a Libra – I thrive on balance,” he says with a smile.

Hailing from Minneapolis, Anthony James Capra fell in love with the hospitality industry when he was hired as a bellman at the Phoenician Resort his freshman year at Arizona State University. He returned home to finish his degree in German at University of Minnesota and worked at the Whitney Hotel, a small, high-end boutique hotel. In seven years, he worked his way from bellman to his first management job, all the while meeting many visiting celebrities, including Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon while filming “Grumpy Old Men.”

UGM Chad, James, Tony, Cooper

Tony serving lunch at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission with fellow El Gaucho General Managers James Capangpangan, Cooper Mills, and President Chad Mackay

Even though he loved his job, he didn’t necessarily like the Minnesota weather. He decided to take a road trip west to visit two former colleagues – one in San Francisco, another in Seattle. First stop was Sausalito, where he spent three days sight-seeing with his friend Monica. As much as he loved the Bay area, the cost of living was too high, so Tony headed north to Seattle and, as he explains, “as I was driving on 99 North through Seattle, I just knew this is where I wanted to be.” While in Seattle he took in the sights with an old friend Ellen, who had moved from Minneapolis to Seattle the previous year and who would later convince Tony to move to the restaurant side of the hospitality business.

He drove home, gave his notice, and packed up his car to head west for good. He didn’t have much luck with hotel jobs, so he followed his friend Ellen’s advice and gave restaurants a go, starting at Salty’s on Alki as the maitre d’. He found success redesigning the dining room and books, and after stints in banquet management and purchasing, he wound up as General Manager (GM). It was there he also met his best friend, Cooper Mills, now the GM at El Gaucho Seattle. After nine years at Salty’s, he moved on to Ivar’s as Asst GM, spent time at Acres of Clams, and became GM of Ivar’s Salmon House.

In October of 2008, he joined his friend Cooper to become Asst. GM at El Gaucho Seattle. He quickly became known as the “go-to” guy and fix-it man, and filled in for vacant GM positions in Tacoma and Portland, but he never wanted to move outside of Seattle. In October 2012, he was offered the General Manager position at El Gaucho Bellevue.

Tony with some of his El Gaucho Bellevue family at the annual POUR event: Whitney, Ryan, Tivoli, and Apple

Tony with some of his El Gaucho Bellevue family at the annual POUR event: Whitney, Ryan, Tivoli, and Apple

Since becoming GM, Tony says his greatest accomplishment as a professional is building a team that works so well together. “We’ve built a great environment for our guests and team,” he says.

In his free time, Tony loves to travel, play golf, and cheer on local sports teams. He is also a fan of English Soccer team Chelsea. Last year he bought a 24’ RV, affectionately known as “Minnie Winnie” and has so far explored Eastern Washington and the Oregon Coast. That said, his favorite place is Maui. As you might have guessed from his name, Tony is Italian, and when going out, he loves home-style Italian cooking, with a warm atmosphere and good food. His favorite haunts are Bizarro in Fremont, Palace Kitchen, and Branzino for cigars and scotch for an after work treat.

Tony with work teammates Cooper, Jimmy and Larry cheering on the Seahawks to victory!

Tony with work teammates Cooper, Jimmy and Larry cheering on the Seahawks to victory!

When asked about his family, he mentions he’s the youngest of four, and has five nieces and four nephews all in the Minneapolis area, which he visits once a year. His parents are now “full time RVers,” splitting their time between Minnesota and Texas. “My West Coast family has really become the people I work with at El Gaucho Bellevue,” he says. “I have people ask me if I’m interested in being set up on dates, but honestly I’m content being single. I like my life, and my work, and my family here.”

His favorite part of working for El Gaucho is that at the end of the day, it’s still a “mom and pop restaurant.” He explains, “There are no layers of corporate; the owners trust the General Managers to get the right people and let them do their job. If we’re doing our job right, we’re attracting the right people, who are professionals and are not only great people, but great people to work with.”

Tony with El Gaucho Bellevue Captains Larry and Lonnie with the Vince Lombardi trophy

Tony with El Gaucho Bellevue Captains Larry and Lonnie with the Vince Lombardi trophy

Visit Tony and his family of employees at El Gaucho Bellevue for lunch, happy hour and dinner. Hours: Monday-Friday starting at 11:30am, Saturday & Sunday starting at 5:00pm.

Supplier Highlight – Eydfinn Tausen with Olympic Seafoods

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Supplier Highlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron
Fishing fleet in Neah Bay

Fishing fleet in Neah Bay

Sourcing the very best ingredients is one of the hallmarks of our company and one of the most important aspects of our business. We place a priority on finding the best, and are always thrilled when we find exceptional natural sources in our own backyard. Here in the Pacific Northwest that means access to some of the best seafood in the world.

One way we ensure that our guests are served the best is to build relationships with our key suppliers and track the source and quality of the products they provide. We are grateful to Corfini Gourmet, a local food distribution company, for introducing us to an individual we now source from, who is taking product sourcing and transparency to the next level.

Eydfinn Tausen of Olympic Seafoods

Eydfinn Tausen of Olympic Seafoods

Eydfinn Tausen of Olympic Seafoods has created a fish tagging system with information so detailed you know where the fish came from, to the boat who caught it, even the name of the fisherman.

Eydfinn has been a leader in the fishing industry since the early ‘80s, working with Select Fish and later Whole Foods. He always felt there were many under-utilized opportunities in the fishing industry, particularly in Neah Bay. “There’s so much fresh fish!” he kept telling himself, knowing that most of the fresh fish consumed in Seattle is from Alaska and BC. While Neah Bay is a shorter distance at 150 miles, logistics still present a challenge: a windy road and mountain range separates the two and deliveries were not dependable. And with fishing, timing is everything.

This brand new building, dock and ice house is an open work area where the fish is sorted and weighed for the Makah fisherman in Neah Bay.

This brand new building, dock and ice house is an open work area where the fish is sorted and weighed for the Makah fisherman in Neah Bay.

He decided to take matters into his own hands and bought a refrigerated truck, and started introducing himself to mostly Makah fisherman in Neah Bay. The people he met had great fishing expertise but didn’t have experience marketing and distributing their product. Eydfinn knew how to do both.

“Most people don’t have any idea where their fish come from,” he explains. “I want to help tell that story. I’m the facilitator. I want the customer to see where their food is coming from.”

To help tell that story, Eydfinn created tags for each of the fish when they’re caught, containing a QR code that displays the species, name of the boat, and a bio on the fisherman. The QR code can simply be read through a smart phone, and even guests can take the tag home with them. The tagging process takes time: Eydfinn is hopeful that in 2015 all black cod, halibut and salmon caught in Neah Bay will be tagged.

Fish are tagged by the Makah fisherman, and the QR code, read through a smart phone, gives information, including the fisherman's bio.

Fish are tagged by the Makah fisherman, and the QR code, read through a smart phone, gives information, including the fisherman’s bio.

Eydfinn blog - fish tag QR code back side Eydfinn blog - fish tag QR code

I tell the fisherman, “If you are proud of your fish – tell your story,” Eydfinn explains. These stories are told through each fish tag sold through Olympic Seafoods.

Eydfinn’s model is working. He knows most of the Neah Bay fisherman, who deliver to a co-op, from where Eydfinn purchases his fish. He currently works with about 30 boats belonging to the co-op, and in most cases, the fish caught are delivered within 24-36 hours. He’s also proud that he’s helping to reduce the carbon footprint to provide fresh fish to consumers.

“We love that we are so close to the source,” says El Gaucho Seattle Executive Chef Matt Brandsey. “The black cod currently on our menu comes directly to us from Neah Bay. By the time we get it, it has only been out if the water for less than 24 hours. Eydfinn works directly with specific fishing families to ensure consistency every time.”

Eydfinn Tausen blog fish

Beautiful fish caught in Neah Bay.

Fishing is a complicated and delicate system, managed by governing bodies from the international level down to local tribunal communities. The quotas and fishing seasons are an intricate balance that’s different every year. ForNeah Bay, a typical year starts primarily with “bottom fish,” such asPetrole and Dover sole, cod and other flat fish varieties. Halibut season typically starts mid-March, and is a very short season inNeah Bay due to quotas – it runs much longer in Alaska and British Columbia, Eydfinn notes.

One of the boats in the Neah Bay fishing fleet.

One of the boats in the Neah Bay fishing fleet.

About a week later, black cod season opens and usually lasts until the beginning of May, which is when King salmon season opens; normally the season can last until mid-September, depending again on set, and met, quotas.. In July,Coho salmon season begins, and in September, black cod reopens and can last until December (like this year). Year round, boats inNeah Bay catch many species of Rock fish, ling cod, and other species of bottom fish.

Our mission is simply to find the best for our patrons and guests to enjoy. No excuses and no compromise. Our family of restaurants constantly works to bring you the best the world has to offer, and thanks to Eydfinn and his team, some of that is from the local waters of Neah Bay.

At El Gaucho Seattle, black cod is marinated in white miso and orange juice. The skin is seared on a plancha grill to get it super crispy, then finished it in the oven. It is served with roasted Brussels sprouts and winter squash with coconut milk molasses.

At El Gaucho Seattle, black cod is marinated in white miso and orange juice. The skin is seared on a plancha grill to get it super crispy, then finished it in the oven. It is served with roasted Brussels sprouts and winter squash with coconut milk molasses.

Giving Back is Always in Season for El Gaucho Hospitality

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Community with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

AQ@UGMThe holidays are always a time of giving, a special time of year we focus on giving to others who are less fortunate. “Building Community” is one of the pillars our company was founded upon and is a year-round focus for our family of restaurants. Not only do we provide a place of celebration, but we are also generous in our fundraising for local charities, by giving of our time, resources, and energy to help build better communities.

This foundation was laid by our owner and founder, Paul Mackay, when he reopened El Gaucho in 1996. We estimate that through financial giving, time, and resources, we have proudly donated over $3.5 million to local organizations since our inception, and that number steadily climbs every year.

In 2014 alone, the donations to local organizations have totaled over $250,000 – a combination of in-kind giving, through our Gridiron Society and charitable match programs, and our ongoing work with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM).

Since 1932, the Mission has dedicated its efforts to compassionately helping those in need with services in education, spiritual development, and basic life essentials. We strongly believe in their mission to “serve, rescue, and transform those in greatest need,” and are proud to partner with them to help restore hope in our community.

Our AQUA and El Gaucho Seattle restaurant teams sign up to donate their time preparing and serving lunch twice a month at UGM, feeding 250 homeless each time, with more than 11,000 lunches served to date. Once an employee experiences serving at the shelter, a transformation invariably occurs, and most agree that they receive so much by serving and giving.

El Gaucho President Chad Mackay with General Managers James Capangpangan, Tony Capra and Cooper Mills serving lunch at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission

El Gaucho President Chad Mackay with General Managers James Capangpangan, Tony Capra and Cooper Mills serving lunch at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission

“What we’ve received through working with UGM far outweighs what we have given. The opportunity to interact with those we feed is both humbling and enlightening,” said Sivi Mennen, AQUA by El Gaucho General Manager. “Hearing the stories of both struggles and triumphs, has altered the lives of our staff. Each month, I notice a difference in my team after we have visited; they are a bit gentler, kinder toward each other, thankful, and genuinely moved by their time at the shelter.”

El Gaucho and AQUA are the only restaurants that volunteer at this level at the Mission. We would love to see other restaurants serve in this capacity and are happy to assist other businesses achieve this level of donation. As noted in the 5/23/14 Puget Sound Business article about our work with UGM,  “While many companies contribute real dollars to charitable causes, it is the in-kind giving that can bring givers and beneficiaries face to face. Sometimes the best gift a company can give is the goods or services that are the core of their expertise.”

El Gaucho Hospitality gifted the $5,000 they won through the National Restaurant Association's Good Neighbor Award to Seattle's Union Gospel Mission.

El Gaucho Hospitality gifted the $5,000 they won through the National Restaurant Association’s Good Neighbor Award to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.

In addition to serving lunch, El Gaucho Hospitality also assists with UGM fundraising efforts throughout the year, and donates items for auction. El Gaucho Hospitality was awarded the National Restaurant Association’s “Good Neighbor” award for our ongoing commitment to serving at UGM. Paul Mackay received the award on behalf of our company at their annual event in Washington, D.C. in 2012. This short video shows more about our work.

The El Gaucho Community
Incorporating our guests in our giving strategy has provided a huge impact on local charities and in the connections we have with our best customers. The charitable match program was created when the recession hit in 2010: funds were tight, and the donation requests outstripped our capacity to give. We have a hard time saying no, so we created a way to continue our generous giving program, and the charitable match program was born. We match every El Gaucho Hospitality gift card purchased at full value to benefit any non-profit organization’s fundraising need. We don’t set a on the amount we will match, and the only limit is the organization’s creativity on how to package or market the gift cards. The program has been extremely successful, with other high-profile, fine dining establishments following suit.

Around that same time, our guest loyalty programs launched, and we wanted to include a charitable component, as well as aspiring for our guests to direct where our donations should go. Today, our Gridiron Society members are able to annually donate a Chef’s Wine Dinner for four, valued at $600, to any charity of their choice. The Gridiron Society is an invitation only group exclusive to El Gaucho Hospitality restaurants, and while member’s names are not published, we will help organizations tap into this resource.

El Gaucho Hospitality serving at Catalyst, UGM's major fundraising event.

El Gaucho Hospitality serving at Catalyst, UGM’s major fundraising event.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
We strongly feel that each of us has a certain obligation to help make our world a better place, and we are privileged to serve and give back to the communities we deeply care about.

For more information on our charitable giving, or to request a donation, please visit our website.

Employee Highlight – Meet David Shapland, Inn at El Gaucho Manager

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Employee Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2014 by The Gaucho Gridiron

David Shapland has always felt a calling to serving others. “After studying for the ministry, I worked as a front desk agent at the Courtyard Marriott Boston and was instantly hooked on hospitality,” says David Shapland, Manager at the Inn at El Gaucho. His years of training and church work fit right into the hospitality field: both rely on a foundation of service and a deep love of people.

Born in Yorba Linda, California, David was raised in Hartlepool, England, until he moved to California at five years old. After studying theology at LIFE Bible College in California, David’s path took a different direction into hospitality. He “worked his way up the ladder” becoming the Assistant General Manager at Marriott Dulles in Virginia, when he met his soon-to-be husband, James, and found himself moving across the country to Seattle. In 2009, he was hired as the Inn at El Gaucho’s manager.

David with his partner, James.

David with his partner, James.

“I love what El Gaucho stands for and its values,” he says. “In my experience, the only thing El Gaucho values more than its employees are our guests.”

The Inn at El Gaucho opened in 2005 as a 17-room, boutique inn right above El Gaucho Seattle in Belltown. When Paul Mackay reopened El Gaucho Seattle in 1996, he moved from the original location to where it is today, at First and Wall. The building was originally the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific Hall, which included apartments for retired sailors on the second floor. When the restaurant was up and running, Paul decided it was time to offer dining guests the “ultimate nightcap,” and he remodeled the 2nd level into a luxury inn.

The Inn at El Gaucho lobby, which sits right above El Gaucho Seattle.

The Inn at El Gaucho lobby, which sits right above El Gaucho Seattle.

“Our staff thrives on service,” explains David. “We want all of our guests to feel at home when they stay with us. Because of our size, we can make every guest experience an intimate and personal one,” he exclaims.

David recently decided to take his knowledge and experience and give back to others, and earlier this year became a Technical Advisory board member for the South Sound College.

“I think that business and the community should have a symbiotic relationship, and I am fortunate to work for El Gaucho Hospitality, who shares the same philosophy,” he explains. “It’s important to me to give back to the community. I believe that I can help guide and mold the future leaders of our industry, by sharing my time, knowledge and experiences with them. That being said, I have also learned a lot from the current students already.”

Traveling is one of David's hobbies. Pictured here in Hong Kong.

Traveling is one of David’s hobbies. Pictured here in Hong Kong.

Some of that knowledge and experience also comes from his love of travel. In addition to exploring the Pacific Northwest, David has been all over the world, including England, France, Iceland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Argentina, Mexico, and Canada. He intentionally stays in boutique hotels and Bed & Breakfasts for ideas and amenities, and loves the personal connections he makes. “I find I learn the most about a place staying in smaller hotels or B&B’s,” he explains.

David's two dogs - Jacob and Ianto.

David’s two dogs – Jacob and Ianto.

David and his partner James recently bought their first house and share it with their two dogs, Jacob and Ianto. In his spare time, David loves to cook, garden, and hike. “I grew up in a family where my mother cooked every night and I have mostly carried on that tradition,” he says. “I love experimenting and just purchased a sous vide cooker which has been a lot of fun!”

David's chicken coop

David raises his own chickens.

The love of cooking and gardening has also expanded into raising chickens – six in fact, all with names: Mavis, Lucy, Ethel, Pauline, Doris and Gertrude. They supply enough eggs for James and David, and some lucky friends and coworkers.

Whether Seattle is a travel destination, or you’re booking a staycation, David and his team would love to make your stay a special experience at the Inn at El Gaucho. Visit www.elgaucho.com for more information and reservations, or call 206-728-1133.

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