Faith And Fine Dining at Seattle’s Canlis Restaurant

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“We’re trying to get to a place where working on our business is also working on ourselves." Mark Canlis is the co-owner of Canlis, one of the top 20 restaurants in America as rated by Gourmet Magazine. Through his restaurant, Mark embodies hospitality and stewardship in the pursuit of fine dining excellence.

This video helps illustrate John's teaching on becoming like Jesus Christ in 1 John - Walking in the Light.

Guest Contributor: Eddie Wang, centered.org

Tucked away in the cozy Pacific Northwest is one of Seattle’s premier fine dining treasures: Canlis. For three generations, Canlis has been family-owned and operated, and has garnered multiple awards, including Gourmet Magazine’s #19 restaurant in America. This past Tuesday, I spent some time with Mark Canlis, co-owner of this iconic restaurant, and a group of friends and strangers from around Seattle by attending a Centered Meetup (more on this below). Mark discussed how he brings his whole self, including his faith, to his work.

What amazed me most during our time together was not the fine dining, the impeccable service, or the transcendent views of Seattle.  Instead, I was most impressed by the simple approach they took to business: every customer interaction is viewed as a precious moment, a cherished opportunity to show hospitality.

Making Room For

Mark explained that hospitality, in its purest Latin etymology, means “making room for,” and at Canlis, they aim to simply “make room” for each customer, who has, in a sense, invited Canlis into a special moment in his or her life.

To be hospitable, Canlis seeks to earn trust—the currency of all relationships—from its customers. In Mark’s words, “Our goal is to be a people, to be a company, worth trusting…None of us trusts what is unsafe. So really, our goal is to be a safe place for those coming to dine.”

Stewarding Precious Moments

Beyond hospitality, Mark has a tremendous understanding of the stewardship involved with each “precious moment” at Canlis. In his words:

“Stewardship first and foremost begins with ourselves. It means living fully into who we were created to be. If we don’t begin with this understanding of taking care of all the gifts and resources that we ourselves have been blessed with, how could we ever hope to take care of anyone else’s time or money? And that’s what the guest is giving us: their most prized possessions: their time and their money.

Every night they arrive at Canlis with that same deep longing, ‘tonight needs to matter.’ People entrust us with the most special, sacred moments of their lives: wedding anniversaries, birthday celebrations, family reunions, their daughter’s only 16th birthday. If we don’t take that responsibility seriously, if we can’t be trusted with that sacred an evening, then we cannot hope to succeed in business.”

Putting the Right People in Place

Explaining the long-term success of Canlis, Mark points to the power of putting the right people in place. With every hire, the question he stresses–the one that really matters–is: “Who are you trying to become?”

Mark posits that who a person is becoming is more important than who s/he is now or what s/he knows now. If an employee genuinely desires to become more trustworthy, generous, and others-centered (the three values of Canlis), the person will undoubtedly be successful in the long-run.

Jesus at Work

As I left the restaurant, I came away with a strong desire to make the most of every social interaction as an opportunity to demonstrate hospitality. I left inspired to steward every precious moment spent in the presence of others as an opportunity to value and empower them. Mark, through his restaurant, is a testimony to the simple power of the principles and person of Jesus to transform and inform every aspect of society, including our everyday work.



Special thanks to centered.org. Centered is a new marketplace ministry that captures the short stories and life lessons of Jesus-centered leaders and creates community learning spaces through in-person, local Meetup groups