The fedora is the giveaway. It’s Seattle chef Thierry Rautureau’s trademark, a gift from his wife, Kathleen, that led to his nickname, “The Chef in the Hat.” Of course, Rautureau is known for far more than his dapper headgear. His restaurant Rover’s (open from 1987 to June 2013) gleaned awards from Seattle Magazine’s Restaurant of the Year, to Food & Wine’s Best French Food in Seattle, and Rautureau himself was deemed Best Northwest Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 1998. With the French-American café Luc, opened in 2010, he has created a low-key neighborhood spot for bistro classics, such as boeuf bourguignon and cassoulet, and tipped his hat to his dad, the restaurant’s namesake. And with his 2013 opening of Loulay Kitchen & Bar, the hat is tipped to Rautureau’s French hometown, Saint Hilaire de Loulay. The chef has become a household name after appearances on Top Chef Masters (seasons 2 and 4), French Fest (on PBS) and the Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs from the Great Cities.
Cooking started early for Rautureau. Born in the agricultural Muscadet region of France, he was enlisted by his mother to help prepare family meals. From the ages of 14 to 20, he trained in kitchens from Anjou to Normandy to France’s Basque country, before heading to the United States, to cook with Jean-Claude Poilevey at Chicago’s elegant La Fontaine, with Joachim Splichal at The Regency Club, and with Lauren Quenioux at the 7th Street Bistro (both in L.A.).
The bounty of the Pacific Northwest (and the fact that Rover’s restaurant just happened to be for sale) lured Rautureau to Seattle in 1987. When he took over Rover’s, Rautureau and his cooking attracted the attention not only of food lovers but of fellow chefs, including Tom Douglas (of Lola, Palace Kitchen, et al.) whose friendship with Rautureau blossomed into a long-running weekly radio show on KIRO, “In the Kitchen with Tom and Thierry,” which then evolved into “The Seattle Kitchen.”
A committed member of his community, Rautureau serves on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Food Lifeline, which provides food banks, hot meal programs, and shelters in western Washington.