This week James Beard Award–winning chef Jerry Traunfeld announced he will be closing Poppy after 11 years of service and a staple of the Seattle restaurant scene.
After 17 trailblazing years winning awards and making headlines as the executive chef of The Herbfarm in Woodinville, Jerry Traunfeld left in 2007 to open his own restaurant. Poppy opened in 2008 featuring a reinvention of the thali, a tray of 10 harmonious dishes served at once, infused with Traunfeld’s signature seasonal, herb-inspired culinary style.
Over the next decade, Poppy went on to garner numerous awards and accolades, including James Beard semifinalist nominations for Best New Restaurant and Best Chef of the Year (nationally) and one of 50 Top New Restaurants in the World by Condé Nast Traveler.
Traunfeld and his husband Stephen, who just celebrated their 39th anniversary, have worked together at Poppy since opening day. As a couple, they have decided to make a lifestyle change. Stephen will be retiring, while Jerry plans to take a step back from the demands of being a restaurant owner but will continue to do some of the things he loves most: cooking, food writing, teaching and gardening. They are also planning a move to Palm Springs.
“Closing Poppy and leaving our beloved Seattle community was not an easy decision,” said Traunfeld. “Stevie and I came to this decision together. We always thought we would move to Palm Springs at some point, and we intuitively felt like this was the right time. A restaurant is a dynamic entity with a distinct lifespan, and we felt like this was the time to appreciate the run we’ve had with Poppy and end on a good note. Now is the time for us to say goodbye to our Poppy family and explore what’s next.”
Rebecca and Nathan Lockwood, who own Altura Restaurant across the street, will open a new restaurant in the Poppy space in the fall of 2019. “We are very excited for the opportunity to step into the space at Poppy,” said Nathan Lockwood. “Chef Traunfeld has been an inspiration to so many cooks over the years, and we hope to continue to honor that legacy for years to come.”
Jerry and Stephen would like to recognize the talented and dedicated employees who have helped create a strong community at Poppy and the many loyal customers who have become their friends over the years. In particular, they would like to thank Kate Johnson, Poppy’s dining room manager, who has been with the restaurant for all 11 years and made so many close connections with guests since the day it opened; and Sydney Clark, who started in Poppy’s kitchen as a line cook six years ago and progressed through all the stations until she became sous chef and then chef.
“I owe so much to my employees over the last 11 years,” said Traunfeld. “They have helped make Poppy a home away from home for us and have helped my concept for this restaurant thrive for over a decade.”
Poppy has served as the springboard for some of Seattle’s most talented culinary professionals, including:
- Jason Stratton, Poppy’s first chef and now executive chef at Mamnoon
- Dana Cree, Poppy’s first pastry chef, who went on to Alinea and Spago (Beverly Hills) and earned two James Beard nominations for Outstanding Pastry Chef
- Kevin Burzell, who started as opening cook at Poppy and went on to found Kedai Makan
- Matt Bumpas, former Poppy pastry chef, who went on to found Sweet Bumpas ice cream
- Dionne Himmelfarb, former Poppy pastry chef, who is now executive pastry chef of Ethan Stowell Restaurants
- Joe Ritchie, former Poppy chef, who went on to be executive chef of Goldfinch Tavern
- Madeline Puckett, who worked front of house at Poppy and went on to found Wine Folly
“Thank you to our customers and our regulars who have been so supportive of Stevie and me since the beginning,” added Traunfeld.
Poppy’s last day of service will be Sunday, August 4.