Critic-Turned-Cook Tries Out at Delancey in Seattle

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[Flickr: pouryourheartintoit]

This might sound corny, but as a food critic I always appreciated when a restaurant was a labor of love. As much as I admired the panache and precision of many a white linen tablecloth venue, there was something especially charming about a Mom-and-Pop place trying so hard to please.

That's how I would describe the newest hot spot in Seattle, Delancey, a pizza place run by a young couple who’ve put a lot of heart and soul into doing things just right. And I’m not just saying that because I’m trying to butter up the boss and get my foot in the door either.

When I wrote a few weeks ago about my frustrating efforts to find a new job, somebody tipped me off that Delancey was looking for a prep cook. Owners Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (yes, the beloved author of the best-selling A Homemade Life) were working 16 hours a day in their new venture and needed some relief.

I sent them an email, then went in for an interview and got an encouraging, "Let’s see." When I checked back in, I found out the prep cook position had been filled by a guy sporting a dream resume. (Oh yeah, who hasn't worked at The French Laundry?) Still, there was the possibility of coming in to help out once a week and I took it. The major prep project each day involves forming 120 dough balls: measuring, pre-shaping and then giving them a final twist.

While it took me a little while to get the hang of it, I said a baker's dozen silent "thank yous" to Gwen LeBlanc, the bread genius at Tom Douglas' restaurants, who taught me a lot about handling dough. It took nearly three hours to form those dough balls that would later be stretched into crust that would cook lickety split in the apple wood-fired brick oven, which Brandon built himself. (He built everything and chronicled it on Twitter.)

Throughout the day I saw potential customers drift in the front door to pick up menus and hear the drill about securing tables. (They’re open only for dinner and don't take reservations for parties under six, so you need to stop by and put your name on a list. They’ll call when something opens up.) I also got to see Molly and Brandon kidding around. She brought him a spoon full of blackberry yogurt to try—he gave her feedback. They were sweet and it was obvious they cared. I loved the energy of the place.

I'm not sure whether it's going to work out for me there, but no matter what happens, I certainly will relish the chance to be a diner at Delancey.

About the author: Leslie Kelly is the former restaurant critic for the defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She's been cooking around the city and chronicling her journey from pen to pan for Serious Eats. She also blogs at LeslieKellyWhiningandDining.blogspot.com.

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