The Willows Inn Team
Chef Blaine Wetzel
at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island grew up in Washington. He began working in kitchens at age 14, and he’s never stopped. A dozen years later, he has studied and apprenticed widely, notably as Rene Redzepi’s chef-de-partie at noma in Copenhagen that repeatedly garnered recognition as the best restaurant in the world.
Redzepi refers to Wetzel a “rare and amazing talent.” Since arriving on Lummi Island and becoming a partner in the new ownership group, Wetzel has attracted international attention. In 2011, the New York Times declared Willows Inn on Lummi Island “One of the 10 Restaurants (in the world) Worth a Plane Ride.” Chef Blaine was listed by Food & Wine magazine as the Best New Chef of 2012 and in 2013 he became a James Beard Award finalist for the first time. Just this year, he was awarded the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award.
Wetzel brands his exquisite meals with a commitment to island and locally-sourced ingredients and the traditions of farm-to-table preparation. He designs a provocative, yet honest food presentation, delivering much of it to the tables himself.
You’ll experience salmon caught around the corner and cooked to moist tenderness right on the Willows Inn grounds in our specialty smokehouse; seaweed gathered from the beach out front, and berries plucked from the back fields. Wetzel’s food brings you into an intimate relationship with the landscape he loves, allowing you to touch, taste, see and smell the ocean, the coastal lands, the soft gray light on the water.
Managing Partner John Gibb
assumed leadership of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island during November, 2011. Under his direction, the inn and restaurant operations expanded to include management of the Beach Store Cafe, a historic and charming eatery across from the island’s ferry dock, and the Taproot Cafe downstairs from the main dining room. Gibb embraces and makes possible the working mantra of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island: “Fished, foraged and farmed. Every day.” His relationships with island gardens and local fishermen support Chef Wetzel’s commitment to the freshest, local seasonal ingredients.
Gibb’s previous experience in hospitality includes stints with Hyatt, Wyndham, and Hilton hotel chains, and steering the Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, Wash., out of receivership. These career paths arose from childhood experiences on his family’s farm-to-table hostelry in Tanzania. He grew up on a coffee plantation and amongst vegetable gardens, helping guests at their Serengeti home and inn.
Gibbs’ Farm in Tanzania, though no longer in the family, continues as an elegant, comfortable retreat that celebrates local culture and cuisine. It’s been named Best Safari Hotel by experts in the travel industry. Gibb simply has it in his bloodlines to run an inn that provides an intimate, unique experience of a remote and beautiful place.