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One Year In: Acadia’s Seamus Foran On Going From Chef De Cuisine to Restaurant Owner Overnight

Foran dishes on the difference between being bossed and doing the bossing

Acadia's Seamus Foran
Acadia's Seamus Foran
Dina Avila

Next week, on August 1, Seamus Foran will quietly celebrate his first year in business as the owner of the restaurant Acadia in the Sabin neighborhood.

Unlike many of his first-time-owner peers, Foran's first year came with one pretty big advantage—namely that he'd been cooking in Acadia's kitchen since he answered a Craigslist ad back in 2007.

But he also found himself in the tricky position of going from being bossed to doing the bossing overnight.

We caught up with Foran last week to talk about jobs, real jobs, and knowing when to dip out when your peers-turned-employees are going out for more than just one beer.

So, what's it like to go from working the line to working the books?

I had a lot of advantages when I bought Acadia because I'd been here for a while, and had a feel for how payroll worked and how many servers to have on on a given night. At a young age, a restaurant job never felt like a job—I'd just sharpen my knives and show up and listen to punk rock. So it's a little weird to have a job that requires me to wake up every morning and read my emails.

But has it been fun?

Yeah, it is! It's definitely cool. It's something I've worked toward for a long time. I find it challenging to put my own stamp on it without rocking the boat.

I feel like I have an identity in the dishes we've been serving for all these years, but right now I'm playing around with simplicity. Before, all the dishes were elegantly complex. Now I'm trying to roll out simple seasonal salads, and seafood dishes that let the seafood we source from New Orleans do its own talking.

You cracked The Oregonian's 101 Best Restaurants this year. What's that like?

It's been really exciting. This is a terrific city with a lot of great restaurants, and to be included [at 91] on a list that includes places like Le Pigeon is rewarding. When it first came out, I was joking, like, "Oh, man, only 91?" but my friend pointed out that if you clicked on the link that listed them all, you'll probably read the first 10 or 12, then just skip to the bottom to see what's best, so maybe it's not so bad to be listed up top at 91 instead of in the middle of the pack.

What's it like to go from working at a place for eight years—and being a peer—to being the boss?

It's tough. You want to make sure everyone's having a fun time, but you want to maintain a level of professionalism, too. I've definitely taken a step back from going out and having drinks with people. When the boss is around, it can lead to awkward conversations. I always admired how [former owner] Adam [Higgs] was able to be professional and maintain a fun, positive work environment.

Have anything in the works?

When I first took over, I wanted to get new chairs for the dining room, repaint the dining room, update the POS. I thought, ‘This is my restaurant, and it's going to look like I want it to look.' But when you start working out the business' peaks and valleys, doing all of that all at once doesn't make sense. For every busy Saturday night, there's a slow Tuesday coming up behind it. I still want to do all that, but they're more long-term goals for now. Fortunately, Adam's sales records date back more than 10 years, so I can get a feel for when it should be busy and when it shouldn't, and I feel extremely fortunate for that.

Acadia: 1303 NE Fremont St., 503-249-5001


1303 Northeast Fremont Street, , OR 97212 (503) 249-5001 Visit Website