After two months of weddings and other controlled events, Heidi Lael is opening the doors to the Parrott House to the public again, starting during the first weekend in November.
The Parrott House shut down and sent employees home for September and October while Lael and Bar Manager Chris Cooper worked out their list of “could-have, would-have, should-haves.”
“I started realizing I wish I had done things differently,” Lael said. “It’s kind of cool because not many people get that chance to go back and go, ‘OK, let’s get it really right this time.’ As stressful as it is and as hard as it is on the community in this time, we are going to be better than ever.”
When she closed down on Sept. 1, she laid off all of her employees. Some went to Tolly’s in Oakland or other opportunities, but about a dozen “core” employees are returning, Lael said.
One position she said she isn’t actively looking to fill at the moment is the role of executive chef. The Parrott House has gone through two since it opened last February, but now, Lael has a chef who has a restaurant in Portland who is helping her create a menu and find and train a new chef.
“I think this is a good way,” Lael said. “We’ve already been down the road of two executive chefs, and I’d rather not go that way, so we are going to work within. We have some tremendous guys in our team who aren’t necessarily executive chefs. They held us together in between chefs, so I think I want to start looking within, find a rising star.”
Lael’s previous executive chefs were expected to create flavor profiles, price out the menu and train the line cooks how to create each item on the menu.
A job for a chef was posted on Craigslist on Sept. 30. The posting reads:
“Parrott House is re-opening soon after an extensive remodel. Looking for a working chef to lead a team of incredible professionals to make this landmark one of the top elite Hospitality experiences in the NW. Very competitive salary and benefit package. Send resume. Opening at end of Oct. Thank you.”
Shortly before closing, there was a water leak large enough to shut down the restaurant for a day, and it forced Lael to look at all of the little repairs that needed to be done in the house. When The News-Review visited on Oct. 12, she said she had about sorted it out, but it still needed some work.
The most visible changes are a redesigned front room, which Lael said she wanted to be more of a lounge area, and a reduction in the level of formality in the restaurant. In the bar area, the space was opened up by removing part of a wall. Behind the scenes, they rearranged the kitchen, did some painting and replaced the stairs.
“I figured this was a good time to just get it all done at once, get her off to a good start for the holiday season,” Lael said in September. “It’s a positive move in the right direction.”
On the Parrott House Facebook page, comments allude to community rumors about the status of the restaurant, and Lael said she quelled rumors when she was out and about.
“I don’t need all of this small-town rumor B.S.,” Lael said. “I’ve done nothing but work my butt off on this house since 2011.”
Lael bought the historic house at 1581 SE Stephens St. in 2011 and began working on it more intently in 2014. The restaurant opened three years later.
On Oct. 27, the Parrott House will host a whiskey tasting event, with tickets selling for $100. Lael said Friday she still plans to have the restaurant open to the public by the first weekend of November.
“I put everything I have into it,” Lael said. “Now we’re taking a step back so we can take a breather and make it better than ever. I’ve got a really great team that I’m proud of, and we’re just going to keep moving forward. I just want to get back open. (I’m) chomping at the bit.”