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Canlis brothers climb on top of the Space Needle to advertise chef Jason Franey

February 28th, 2011 by Jesus Chavez

Canlis’s Chef Jason Franey won a nomination for The People’s Best New Chef earlier this month, prompting owners Brian and Mark Canlis to run a Facebook campaign in his honor.

With black and white photos of the two in Seattle’s notable spots, the restaurateurs hope to get enough votes to win Franey the Northwest and the country in Food & Wine Magazine’s new competition.

“We just thought, ‘how can we be creative here and get people to vote,’” said Mark Canlis. “It’s been a riot; it’s just been a lot of fun.”

There are a total of 14 photographs that will be released each day until voting ends March 1. One of the early shoots had the brothers on the top of the Space Needle in a harness braving cold temperatures and high winds.

“We were so high off adrenaline coming off the space needle in 50 mph winds,” said Canlis. “There were some nerves involved.”

The competition is year one of a joint effort from CNN food blog Eatocracy and Food & Wine Magazine, which nominates 10 chefs from 10 regions of the country and lets people vote for their favorite. The most votes in a region make a chef a finalist, of which there will be 10 in all, but the most votes in the country wins the title.

“We want people to vote for us because they believe in us, because we’re doing something creative,” said Canlis. “Because they respect who we are as a company and love that we’re trying to raise the bar of fine dining in the city, love that we’re trying to make this a food town, a food destination.”

The campaign, while garnering some media attention, is running solely on their Facebook page.

“It’s not so much an ad campaign as doing something fun with the city and social media,” Canlis said.

Adding a playful dimension to the Facebook campaign, Morse Code was inserted into the photographs that led to a secret website. The first 10 to the website (which took about six days) were given reservations and a free dinner at Canlis’s pop-up restaurant Hearth & Home held inside Macrina Bakery Queen Anne last weekend.

Their use of retro photographs with 21st century media herald the next generation of Canlis’s operation. Brian and Mark Canlis have been running the restaurant for five years now, and Chef Franey, the restaurant’s fifth chef in 60 years, has been at Canlis for a little over two years.

“I’m 36 and I’m the oldest person on my management team, it’s a young crew,” Canlis said. “We just thought to ourselves, ‘hey, we’re up for this award, how do we let people know it’s not your grandfather’s Canlis anymore.’”

Alongside Franey, another Queen Anne chef, Shaun McCrain of Book Bindery, is also up for the award.

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