Willows Inn on Lummi Island Opens New Year With More Accolades

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After its annual winter hiatus, the widely-praised restaurant at The Willows Inn off the Northwest Washington coast opened the 2014 season with a James Beard Award nomination for its chef, a regional business award nomination, and high ratings from AAA, Trip Advisor, and other sources. The Inn's locally-sourced "Fished, Foraged & Farmed" pre fixe menu serves 30 a night, Thursday-Sunday through April (Wednesday nights start in May).

Chef Blaine Wetzel at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

We have the best location in the best part of the country in terms of Pacific Northwest lure and island life. We’re fortunate to have the right product at the right time.

The Willows Inn on Lummi Island has reopened its widely-acclaimed seasonal restaurant in a swirl of continuing accolades, including an esteemed James Beard Awards nomination for head chef Blaine Wetzel.

With the arrival of Spring and Pacific Daylight Time, the chef staff has returned from worldwide travels after the restaurant’s annual winter off-season closing. Wetzel, 28, learned during his sojourns that the James Beard Foundation named him among semifinalists for the fourth straight year for the Rising Star Award (chefs under 30).

And this week he advanced as one of the five final nominees who will appear at the awards dinner in New York City for the second straight year. The James Beard Foundation announces winners May 5.

Wetzel’s creations at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island highlight a pre fixe menu ($165) consisting of as many as 20 servings in an all-local, farm-to-table concept of “Fished, Foraged, and Farmed.” One seating takes place nightly Thursday-Sunday in an intimate setting of 30 diners; Wednesday service becomes available in May. (The Inn also takes reservations for a private dining room seating eight.)

Guests of The Willows Inn receive top priority for dinner reservations, and dinner-only bookings are accepted only within two weeks of the desired date. With more laurels stacking up, staff expects the peak season for dinner to fill up soon. The managing partner, co-owner John Gibb, said, “Our advanced bookings are up 10 percent over last year.”

Already this year The Willows Inn on Lummi Island has been named a top 2014 destination for dinner by Gayot, Andrew Harper, USA Today, and British Airways Magazine. The restaurant recently received a 4-Diamond rating by AAA, and a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor.

Further, the The Willows Inn on Lummi Island has been named one of four finalists for regional Small Business of the Year by Business Pulse Magazine (March 26).

“We have the best location in the best part of the country in terms of Pacific Northwest lure and island life,” Gibb said. “We’re fortunate to have the right product at the right time, and we have been successful through operating good fundamentals and discipline.”

Wetzel’s sabbatical culminated this month when he served as one of six chefs from five countries in an event called EPICUREA at the famed Bulgari Hotel in Milan. The event began last October and the other featured guest chefs hailed from Chili, France, Australia, Belgium, and San Francisco. The Bulgari termed the event “a taste voyage around the world.”

Wetzel traveled throughout Italy, as well as Denmark and other destinations, and some of The Willows Inn’s chef staff traversed the nation, Mexico, and as far as Southeast Asia.

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