It's the end of an era for Russell’s Garden Café and Wine Bar at Molbak’s Nursery in downtown Woodinville. After operating for more than 15 years in the popular nursery, Executive Chef and Owner Russell Dean Lowell said he wants to focus on his restaurant in North Creek. His namesake restaurant, Russell’s Restaurant and Loft, opened in 2004 in a renovated dairy barn. The original barn was built in 1927.
“The Molbak’s family is awesome,” Lowell said. “I think the café in Woodinville was the first restaurant inside a greenhouse in the entire county. We had a great time there, but it’s time to explore some new opportunities.”
Marketing consultant Sheri Marzolf said Molbak’s is searching for a new operator and hopes to reopen the café in February.
“They supported us and we supported them,” Marzolf said. “It’s been a great partnership.”
Lowell said he recently partnered with Sound to Summit Brewing to bring a wide array of craft beers to the restaurant, aside from the already vast variety of wines. When not acting as the business owner, he spends most of his time working in the kitchen.
“I work the kitchen all the time and I love it,” he said. “That’s the best place for me.”
Aside from the restaurant, Lowell also cooks for charity. He started “Elk Camp” about 25 years ago as a way to give back to the community.
He offers the camps for bid at charity auctions. Winning bidders get to spend a day at a remote hunting camp with a wild game feast prepared on-site by Lowell himself.
Lowell first learned how to fish and hunt during summers with his grandparents. He became immersed in Spanish when living in Cuba, where his father was stationed at Guantanamo Bay.
He moved to San Diego during his teenage years. In high school, Lowell said he worked at a local restaurant under the mentorship of a highly disciplined French chef.
Since then, his personal cuisine has been tasted by local icons, international celebrities and global leaders. One year, he baked a raspberry-filled chocolate cake and sang “Happy Birthday” to Hillary Clinton.
Lowell plans to detail these unique experiences in his second book, “Every Hour, Every Day,” which highlights the daily demands of running a gourmet restaurant.
“The first book, I don’t talk about my restaurant at all,” he said. “This time, I’m coming out and screaming.”
His first book, “In Search of Duende,” was published in 2014. The cookbook focuses on a series of adventures; each chapter includes a story and a corresponding recipe for a specific dish.
‘Duende’ is a Spanish word defined by Lowell as “having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity.” He said ‘Duende’ is always around him.
Lowell used his experiences traveling around the world to put together his first cookbook. From fly fishing in Baja to bear hunting in Montana, the chef has an abundance of stories to tell.
The self-published author is already thinking ahead to his third book.