This little Snohomish restaurant is a best kept secret among the locals

Joel Childs makes pasta at The Chef Behind The Curtain in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

Senhomish – One of the best places to eat in our area is easy to miss.

There is no sign indicating this small restaurant in downtown Snohomish. You’ll know it’s a restaurant only if you spot wine glasses and white-lined tables – at least when the window blinds are drawn.

In fact, I first passed right in front of The Chef Behind the Curtain, Joel Childs’ celebration of Pacific Northwest ingredients with European culinary influences, before turning back inside and heading out.

Despite its inconspicuous facade, Childs Restaurant is mostly booked out for the next several weeks and for good reason.

The Chef Behind the Curtain is a place to dazzle and dazzle, whether you come alone, your spouse or a group of friends. The experience is on the plate in front of you, in learning how this wine pairs with this dish, in falling in love with something you’ve never tried before.

On Child’s summer menu, perennial duck ragu, handcrafted pappardelle, loaded chimichurri peppers branzino, pork belly, and braised mushrooms, colorfully mashed, oiled and glazed masterfully garnished each dish. Edible architecture. Snohomish’s Best Kept Secrets truly embodies the old saying, “Eat with your eyes.”

Joel Childs uses a kitchen torch to roast tomatoes at The Chef Behind The Curtain in Snohomish.  (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

Joel Childs uses a kitchen torch to roast tomatoes at The Chef Behind The Curtain in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

“Your moment is here, from start to finish, it has to be something special,” said Bex Wollman, co-owner. “This connection, to what food and drink can do in the way that it brings people to a better place, that’s the very special thing.”

I can tell you what you won’t find at The Chef Behind the Curtain: a year-round menu, off-season products, and a check that can rival the average Seattle rent.

“We want to make fine dining accessible to everyone,” Childs said. For $55, appetizers, entrees, and desserts are provided to each guest. You can even buy a bottle of wine for about $20.

Last Thursday saw the inaugural dinner for the Childs Summer Prix roster. I found the Belfast-born chef inside a cozy kitchen, modifying dishes he’d only dreamed of a week earlier: pistachio creme brulee, greasy charred tomato slices with vanilla and lemon, and asparagus salad with salty beans and burrata. Behind him sat a herb garden.

“We wanted to attract people who like change in food,” Childs said. “How do I keep people coming back? I keep changing my list.”

The dining room of The Chef Behind The Curtain in Snohomish.  (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

The dining room of The Chef Behind The Curtain in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

The chef is more than willing to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences. The menu is in keeping with the will of the seasons, allowing guests to savor what is growing around them in the present. That means sustainably sourced corn, tomatoes, watermelons, and strawberries for the next few months.

“America is just a melting pot of amazing food and cuisine,” said Childs, who moved to the US from England in 2017. “It has access to some of the best ingredients in the world, grown here.”

Childs closely monitors the local and healthy ingredients that support the surrounding community. Or – as he puts it – he is “the strange man who smells all the vegetables” in Hagen.

This is not Hollywood’s arrogant version of fine dining. You won’t struggle about which utensil to use, or feel stupid for not knowing how to pronounce it Mel Fuel (It’s a “Mille Foy” by the way. Childs currently serves this French pastry with strawberry, white chocolate, lavender, and basil.)

Asparagus salad with burrata by Joel Childs at The Chef Behind The Curtain in Snohomish.  (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

Asparagus salad with burrata by Joel Childs at The Chef Behind The Curtain in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

The Chef Behind The Curtain opened in February 2021. The small restaurant, occupying only 10 seats, was a soothing respite from the pandemic. She has maintained that comfortable intimacy ever since.

“If you don’t want to be in a hurry, we are the best place for you,” Childs said.

The chef’s success is further proof that Snohomish County is fast becoming a culinary destination, where people can go exploring for food, not just ordering the same dish of meat and potatoes every time they eat out. (By the way, both are equally valid, respectable, and delicious options. But here’s the key word: options.)

Childs initially opened his restaurant to give Snohomish County residents a fine dining experience without having to travel to Seattle.

But one customer, who described The Chef as “perfect for a date night,” ended his review with this:

“We’ve come all the way from Seattle and will do so again in the future.”

The Chef Behind the Curtain has no sign, and is located on a hill in downtown Snohomish.  (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

The Chef Behind the Curtain has no sign, and is located on a hill in downtown Snohomish. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

The chef behind the curtain

113 Ave. C, Snohomish

Contact: 360-643-4935

Website: thechefbehindthecurtain.com

Opening hours: 5 PM to 8:30 PM, Thursday to Saturday

Pricing: The fixed-price menu is $55 per person and includes appetizers, appetizers, and dessert. Wine pairings are available at an additional cost. Most wines cost between $18 and $40 a bottle, with more expensive offerings.

The Chef Behind The Curtain is for reservations only. To make one, go to www.exploretock.com/thechefbehindthecurtain.

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