The list of professions where one can profit while being an unmitigated asshole shrinks by the minute: rock stars, neighborhood news bloggers and, if you believe reality television, executive chefs. Not choosing that path — and actively rejecting it — should earn a level of admiration.
“It’s so long ago. Things have changed so dramatically,” new Capitol Hill restaurateur Eric Stapelman tells CHS about our introduction to the neighborhood of the New York-to-Santa Fe-to-Seattle transplant and his Shibumi Ramenya project.
“If people want to dig it up — It’s not a part of who I want to be.”
Instead of mucking about in the gossip of Sex in the City girlfriends and the mercurial love-and-hate buzz the 55-year-old chef, entrepreneur and natural movement adherent generated in his time in dusty Santa Fe, New Mexico, Stapelman seems to be a forward-looking spiritualist — who just happens to have put his professional expertise in traditional Japanese tavern-style izakaya cooking to work as a celebrity chef to several sorry-we-can’t-reveal-names stars.
He comes to Seattle after deciding to sell his successful restaurants and leave Santa Fe in a moment of spiritual refreshment.
A few years back when an injury and stress conspired to balloon the restaurant owner’s weight more than 100 pounds, Stapelman said turned to wilderness training to help get back in shape. Years of training helped Stapelman take the weight back off and brought him to discover the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
“I spent three days training five hours a day in Discovery Park, Volunteer Park and I just really enjoyed my time here,” Stapelman tells us of a January training visit he made to Seattle as part of his dedication to a natural movement fitness program.
After the Pacific Northwest training, Stapelman returned to the hubbub of Santa Fe where the economic recovery has been slower, bad vibes were still wafting about over things like a “fragrance policy” and he said he’d started to sour on the aging demographics of his clientele. Refreshed from his time in Seattle, his training coach told him he had never looked better and, Stapelman says, told him to sell his restaurants and start fresh in Washington.
“At my age, I want to do what I love doing,” Stapelman said.
Choosing Capitol Hill was easy. Stapelman said he prefers to walk everywhere and his place on the edge of First Hill puts the new ramenya, soon to begin construction at 13th and Pine, well within his range.
“I love the whole neighborhood. I discovered Spinasse when I was up there and I try to eat there once a week,” Stapelman says of his new neighbors. “I want to be part of a community of great chefs.”
By mid-December, Stapelman plans to recreate his Shibumi Ramenya — which he says thrived for more than three years in Santa Fe — in the new The Collins apartment building under construction on upper E Pine.
He is working with Suyama Peterson Deguchi to design the compact space that will house the bar and restaurant. Yoshi Stang, discovered working in another restaurant during Stapelman’s winter visit to the area, will manage. The menu belongs to Stapelman and will focus on “Japanese tavern food, almost like tapas.”
“I love making traditional izakaya,” he said. “It’s the food that I love to do more than anything.”
The bad vibes of the past? Stapelman has already moved well beyond. “I don’t want to get mixed up in the fray,” he says, telling CHS he could have retired with the money from his New Mexico restaurant sales. Instead his outlook is “to be humble in serving food.” He wants to continue a commitment to supporting nonprofits which he says has generated more than $400,00 for nonprofits over the years. He wants to cook and forage for Olympic Peninsula mushrooms and eat at great Capitol Hill restaurants and workout in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.
Will there be a fragrance policy at Shibumi Ramenya?
“I don’t think we’re going to need it in Seattle,” Stapelman said.
You can learn more on the Shibumi Ramenya Facebook page.