By Kelley Lane for Seward City News –
I sat down with Kevin and Stacey Lane in their well decorated and spaced restaurant on Fifth Avenue yesterday afternoon. Their signature Hot Lunch Program had finished and they were in the midst of prepping for the next day and Friday night dinner. The restaurant smelled and looked amazing, fresh and clean, warm and cozy. I regretted not having come in for lunch, as the times that I have these past two winters have always been enjoyable. The Lanes plan to continue their Hot Lunch Program through March, serving at least two entree options each day, plus a drink and dessert, all for $16.
Stacey Lane was born and raised in Seward, where she attended Seward’s elementary, middle and high School all in one building. She delighted in knowing many of her fellow townsfolk. After high school, she went traveling a bit, and soon found her way back to Seward. She’s always thought of Seward as her “sanctuary, and as a place for healing and growth”, a place where she could “reach her full potential.” Back in Seward she was able to try her hand at a variety of jobs, such as administration for the Alaska SeaLife Center and in local banks. These jobs allowed her to develop skills that would later serve her well in managing the front of the house at the Cookery.
Kevin Lane came to Seward by way of a few years working in Juneau, Sitka and a summer on the Yetna River at a fly-in fishing lodge. He hadn’t set out to be a chef, but instead had stumbled upon it while attending Mesa College in San Diego, when he had the intention of becoming an electrician and musician. In order to pay for school, he got a job as a line cook at The Fish Market, where fresh caught seafood was cooked on a mesquite grill. Kevin “fell in love with the freshness,” and had the opportunity to work at an oyster bar within the same restaurant. That oyster bar’s design and operation inspired the Cookery’s current setup, in which the chef and cooks are on display from the dining area.
Kevin and Stacy met while working at Resurrection Roadhouse, when Stacey came on board as a server near the end of the summer and promptly “fell head over heels in love.” Their first date was at Christo’ Palace on Fourth Avenue in downtown Seward. The next year was a whirlwind for the couple, in which they bought their first home, got married and had a baby. Even then, they “knew that [having] a restaurant was in our future.”
In the ensuing years, Kevin took a job at AVTEC, teaching culinary arts. Once again, he was in the position of doing something that he hadn’t envisioned for himself, but once in the role, he learned quickly and enjoyed teaching. Kevin’s ten years at AVTEC taught him even more about the restaurant industry and helped him forge bonds with students, some of whom now staff the Cookery during Summer. Some people will remember that Kevin’s next career move was to Chinook’s in the Seward Harbor, where he ran the kitchen for three years. Again, this experience proved useful to eventually open The Cookery.
It was a long incubation period to opening The Cookery. One example is the space itself. Kevin and Stacy looked at the property every three years for a total of nine years, before deciding “Let’s do it!” in March of 2014. They got the keys from Nicole at Seward Properties on March 1st, and opened for business on May 28th of that same spring. Stacey was amazed at the sense of community surrounding the process and stresses that they could not have opened the restaurant without tremendous support from the community and their families. The Saturday before their scheduled Tuesday opening, more than twenty family and friends came to the restaurant to paint. “We’ll feed if you come paint” they shared with their community and, as is common in Seward, people came through to help make it happen.
Now in their second year of operation, the Cookery is thriving and consistently delivers high quality and creative menu items. They source many of their products locally. Whenever possible, Kevin buys seafood from Resurrection Bay Seafoods, driving over to the processing plant on Lowell Point Road to pick up freshly caught foods. Kevin says that he likes “to be creative with the food.” Stacy spoke of the couple’s desire from the early days of imaging their future restaurant, more than fifteen years ago. “We aimed to capture that sense of welcome you get when you visit old friends in their homes.” The Lanes envisioned a year round restaurant, and so far, they’ve been incredibly consistent and successful in that endeavor. They are currently open Tuesday-Friday for “Hot Lunch at The Cookery” from 11:30am-2pm and Friday and Saturday nights for dinner from 5pm-9pm. Their daily lunch offerings are previewable on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cookeryseward/