“Do you help out at the restaurants?”
Angela Stowell says she has heard this question more than once. It is the plight of every chef’s partner, professional or private. It’s patronizing at best, but downright laughable in the case of Stowell, who is at least equally as responsible as her celebrity chef husband for growing Ethan Stowell Restaurants (ESR) into its current local status as a dining empire.
In July, Stowell announced she’ll take over in October as CEO of FareStart, the Seattle nonprofit that tackles homelessness, joblessness, poverty and hunger by training disadvantaged people to work at its six restaurants. What this means for ESR is that it will soon be short one leader. Word is that in the near term, it will reorganize and cover Stowell’s day-to-day tasks within the company of 400-plus employees, but it will ultimately seek a new CEO.
“[Ethan and I] have grown this great thing together, but it’s important for me to do my own thing and have my own identity,” Stowell says. “We all go through periods of our lives where we go, ‘Is this really what we want to be doing?’ I’m sure Ethan’s gone through that, too. I’m just in this unique position where my skill set can be transferred to someone else.”
The Stowells started their business 10 years ago, when Angela handled all the back-of-house logistics from their 600-square-foot apartment. She grew into a CEO organically — she describes the process as similar to how former FareStart CEO Megan Karch grew the nonprofit during her 18 years there.
Leaving the family business is not an easy choice, for obvious reasons. But Stowell says she looks forward to focusing her energy on community and service. “For me, at the end of the day, I want my kids to be able to say, ‘My dad has all these amazing restaurants and grew this business, and my mom is a complete badass running this organization and helping people out of homelessness.’”
We look forward to seeing just how much good this badass can accomplish.