Seattle restaurateur Angela Stowell starts a new career path
You may have heard of Ethan Stowell, the award-winning chef behind more than a dozen Seattle restaurants. But Angela Stowell, his business partner and wife, is the operational brains and often works behind the scenes.
This month, Angela Stowell is branching out to lead another organization. It's a move partly inspired by personal struggles she faced in life, she told KUOW.
As of October 1, Stowell is the new CEO at FareStart, a nonprofit that runs restaurants to train homeless and disadvantaged people for skills they’ll need in the food service industry.
Moving to an organization like FareStart appears to be a natural fit for Stowell. It combines her restaurant experience and her desire to do more charitable work.
“Having come from this restaurant group with a lot of moving parts, I can take that and adapt that to the trajectory that we are at FareStart,” said Stowell.
Stowell arrives at a time when FareStart is expanding. Last year, it added five eateries on Amazon’s South Lake Union campus. These provide FareStart students paid apprenticeships.
Stowell said she understood firsthand how programs like these can help make a difference in people’s lives. She grew up in a small town in Eastern Oregon then came to Seattle for college.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up,” said Stowell. “I was the first in my family to go to college. And it took me seven years to put myself through college.”
Stowell came to the restaurant business by accident when she married Ethan Stowell. After that, she spent more than a decade helping build the family business.
Then, everything shifted, following a deep and personal loss. In 2011, Stowell was pregnant with twins. But they died before they were born from a rare disease. The loss happened at a time when the Stowells were struggling to keep their restaurants open.
“That was a pivot point in my life,” she said. “I was working to build this restaurant group but I also had this personal moment where, there has to be more than this. I need to do more than this, and if I had an opportunity, I should do more.”
Jackie Cross, co-owner of Tom Douglas Restaurants, remembers that time. “We were all just devastated for them," she said. "It still makes me cry."
Cross said that given Stowell’s civic-mindedness, the new career direction didn’t surprise her.
“All those changes always shape your life and make you hone your desires a little bit and hone your priorities," Cross said. "You can be overcome by it or you can take those horrible tragedies and sort of apply them to what you do next.”
The Stowells did go on to have two more children. In memory of the twins, they started an annual fundraising event to benefit fetal health. Before long Angela Stowell became involved in other philanthropic work, including serving on the board of United Way of King County.
“I’m setting my own trajectory,” said Stowell. “The other important thing for me is to show my two sons, who are still very little, six and four, but to [also] show other women [that] we can be CEO’s of nonprofits, we can be CEO’s of our own companies, and we can be moms.”
Stowell said she’s looking forward to the opportunities of growing FareStart’s programs, and to be part of a bigger solution around homelessness in the city.
“We look at what’s happening with homelessness and with people who are struggling in our community and grief is a big part of that,” she said.
Stowell said she's been fortunate to have people who’ve given her a leg up in life. She hopes to do the same with her new job at FareStart.