Published on July 9th, 2014 | by Katy Evans1
Jaime Kay passes Marrow’s torch to Hilltop Kitchen’s Chris and Matt
There’s something to be said about going out on top, and it takes a special kind of road-tested, professional maturity to know when that time has come.
Jaime Kay Jones is ready to prove she is the keeper of just that kind of maturity: she is unabashedly looking forward to the next phase in her professional and personal life as she and her business partner Chef Kyle Wnuk hand over Marrow’s keys to Chris Keil and Matthew Schweitzer of Hilltop Kitchen. On July 8, the four came to an agreement and finalized the sale.
“Kyle and I may be very different but we’ve always seen eye-to-eye, and we are both ready to move on, spend some quality time with our families, and entrust what we’ve built to two people we know will appreciate it.” explained Jaime on the eve before both sets of owners share the news with their staff members.
Jaime is a discerning entrepreneur, and possibly every of-age Tacomans’ favorite smiling face. Years ago she captured our hearts when she worked behind the bar at Magoo’s and has further proven herself as she established two very successful bar/restaurants, Top of Tacoma and Marrow.
And Jaime has tempered all her decisions with a deep love for Tacoma, her home town. She’s very proud of what she and Kyle have created and offered this city.
“Maybe not everyone will agree, but I think we did something new in this town with Marrow; a lot like Chris did with craft cocktails, I love that Kyle and I challenged the local palate with some really excellent and, well, fancy food, but provided it in a welcoming and casual atmosphere. It meant a lot to be able to share our passions with the town we love.”
I, for one, agree with her. Chef Kyle worked tirelessly to create food unlike anything Tacoma had enjoyed before, and once we tasted it, there was no going back. “That’s why I knew we’d picked the right people to pass the torch to, we wanted someone who would honor what we’d built,” Jaime conveyed.
“I’ve known Chris for a long time, “she continued, “I have always appreciated his energy and enthusiasm and I admire how he runs his business. He thinks outside of the box, he honors the product, and maybe most important, he treats staff like family.”
But really, why now? First, Jaime has seen exponential growth at Top of Tacoma and wants to be able to give it the attention it deserves. Second, there really is no better feeling than finding success, and knowing you’re ready to move on.
Regarding Top of Tacoma: “Part of it is the changing neighborhood, and part of it is the lack of high-quality neighborhood bars, not just on the Eastside, but all over. I walk into Top and see families, 21 year-olds in to get a little buzz with their grandparents, people of all ages from all walks of life come to relax and enjoy good company. And every year, more have come.” Jaime explains. “I’m looking forward to giving Top some real hands-on love. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned from Kyle and apply it there. And when it comes down to it, I might just prefer to host in jeans than in a dress.”
Jaime noted that both she and Kyle felt like they’d reached their goals at Marrow and now was a good time to focus on other things. “I know Kyle is looking forward to some quality time with his family, but I know he’s definitely not done cooking. He loves working with food and is really a genius with it.” And for Jaime? “I’m really wanting to get back to my roots – finding more time to be active, to travel, to spend time on the water with my ever-supportive husband. And to spend more time at Top!”
I was curious what Jaime imagines will happen with Chris and Matthew taking over, “We’re all confident they will do a great job,” she assured me. “I know they will provide 6th with a little something new, with Chris balancing the bar program with the kitchen. And Matt is a proven, new chef with great vision – I know he’ll be excited to work with a hood. They will rock it, I have no doubt.”
This step will mean some big changes for Chris and Matt but don’t expect to see that reflected at Hilltop Kitchen or Marrow. In the press release, Chris stated, “We’re really excited to carry on their tradition of seasonal, innovative cuisine paired with food-friendly wine and cocktails. They have established a culture of high quality, adventurous dining and we are thrilled to continue it.”
And Jaime echoed Chris’s enthusiasm, “we’re happy to pass the torch to Matt and Chris and we know they will honor our brand and grow. And really, I can’t wait to be able to stop in at Marrow, enjoy a meal and a cocktail, and be able to head out without busing a table!”
It’s the season of change and growth here in Tacoma, let’s send up our most hearty congratulations to Jaime and Kyle as they embrace their next adventure. (Oh, and we should also probably wish Chris and Matt some luck too – I can’t wait to see what happens next for Marrow!)
All photographs by Colleen Carroll.
And just a reminder: a disclaimer of my bias.