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Chefs Caprial and John Pence Now Working in Seattle

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The pioneering couple who helped put Portland on the culinary map are starting fresh up north.

In today's episode of "Notable Portland Chefs, Where Are They Now?" we have news of Caprial and John Pence, the adorable cooking duo best known for the Westmoreland institution Caprial's Bistro and their PBS show "Caprial and John's Kitchen." In more recent years they tried out different ventures: the short-lived Korean fried chicken joint Basa Basa in The Ocean's row of microeateries, and a cooking school called Caprial + John The Kitchen. Now it turns out the couple who helped put Portland on the culinary map recently pulled up stakes and moved to Seattle.

The Stranger, a weekly paper out of Seattle, reports that Caprial is now the executive chef and general manager at downtown Seattle's upscale Alexis Hotel, which includes the attached Bookstore Bar & Cafe.

We talked to Caprial, who said the opportunity was too good to pass up. "We were just looking for something new. We loved doing the classes but it wasn't enough for us, both in terms of revenue and keeping us entertained."

And though she wasn't exactly looking to leave her hometown of Portland, moving up north had its plus side. "Seattle is like a second home to us. We started here, we have lots of friends here. And they lobbied hard for us to move."

In fact, it's something of a homecoming for Caprial, who was the very first winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest while working at Fuller's in Seattle back in 1990.

Plus, the timing couldn't have been better. "Our kids are grown and we were getting ready to downsize. When the offer came along, it was like everything was falling into place."

At the restaurant, she's bringing her signature hands-on approach to everything. "I'm encouraging the kitchen to make more in house -- the pancetta, the pastrami, which we're doing with pork shoulder, ricotta, labneh cheese. We're working towards doing the same things we did at the Bistro and what we've taught people to do for the last 20 years."

But don't expect John in the kitchen this time. "We felt like if we worked together we couldn't afford to have a sous chef, which meant we couldn't have time off together. And that's really important to us." Besides, John is more interested in teaching, she says. "He wants to work with kids and the community. He teaches at Seattle Central, and he's interviewing with a company called FareStart, that works with the homeless to help train them for restaurant jobs."

"We're both 50," Caprial continues. "This is when you do stuff that makes you happy."

But don't think you've seen the last of the Pence's in Portland. Caprial's mom and kids still live here, and she even has some Portland events in the works.

"You can't shake us that easily," she says.

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