After honing her skills in the busy kitchens of New York and compiling an impressive culinary résumé, Evergreen graduate Lia Lira returned to the Pacific Northwest to open a restaurant of her own. Today she can be found preparing an array of contemporary dishes for the patrons of Bramble House, her thriving, seasonally-inspired restaurant on Vashon Island.
When Bramble House opened in 2016, it was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Lira. After spending much of her youth on Vashon Island, and developing an affinity for the area and its community, she envisioned opening a restaurant there for many years.
Lira’s appreciation for the Vashon community is reflected in the ingredients used at Bramble House. A firm believer in buying locally, she makes collaborating with local farms a top priority for the restaurant. This allows her to work with fresh and tasty ingredients, while simultaneously supporting the community that she loves so much.
“In a more global perspective, using local farms as much as possible is the best we can do ecologically, reducing shipping costs, packaging, and hopefully decreasing the U.S. dependence on factory farming, monoculture farms, and GMO items,” said Lira.
True to its name, Bramble House is located within a rural 1940s home on the northern side of the island. Lira, who was enamored with the house as soon as she stepped foot in it, has transformed it into a cozy yet elegant dining space.
Though managing the restaurant takes a lot of work, Lira’s culinary career has more than prepared her for the challenge.
She began working in the restaurant industry while studying at Evergreen. After graduating she moved to New York, where she found a job doing conference and trade show planning. She enjoyed the work, but missed cooking and dreamt of doing something more.
Deciding to forego graduate school, Lira got a job as a prep cook at a restaurant in SoHo, a popular neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. From there, she went to work at the well-known Brooklyn establishment River Café, before eventually landing a job at the world-renowned Jean-Georges.
“I was incredibly lucky that I worked with talented and generous chefs who taught me an amazing breadth of knowledge,” said Lira.
While working at Jean-Georges, she worked her way up to the position of Executive Sous Chef and was a contestant on the third season of Top Chef. After the show, she joined the Jean-Georges corporate team, and spent five years traveling around the globe to facilitate restaurant openings, chef trainings, and menu changes.
“It was a ton of work, so much fun, and traveling to other countries had a huge impact on how I cook,” said Lira.
While Lira’s style of cooking is hard to define, it is marked by a keen attention to detail and a penchant for creating clear and delicious flavors.
“It often takes many complicated steps to get to the final dish, but I want someone to taste it and be struck by the clarity of flavor without necessarily noticing the complexity,” explained Lira. “I also think every detail is important, so whether I'm making a high end steak dish for Valentine's Day or a salad for the regular menu, I have the same amount of intention in choosing each ingredient.”
Lira, who describes cooking as a perfect combination of creativity and hard work, has an obvious passion for the trade. However, that is not the only thing that motivates her.
“I like making people happy,” said Lira.
As the owner and chef of Bramble House, Lira strives to bring joy to others one delicious meal at a time.