When there’s tough times and something needs to happen, restaurants just “show up”. That’s what Seattle restaurant owner Ethan Stowell has always known. “Bloodworks 101” producer John Yeager sat down with Ethan recently as Bloodworks wrapped up it’s “Savor Life Save a Life,” blood donation awareness campaign and as you’ll discover in this episode, the help from the culinary community couldn’t have come at a time when it was needed more.
To listen to this episode online, click here or find it wherever you get your podcasts. Remember to subscribe! Transcript below:
John Yeager: Seattle restaurant owner Ethan Stowell says, “This is kind of an unwritten thing with restaurants and the chefs is that, “You support my thing, I’ll support yours.” But more importantly, what I’ve always said about restaurants is that when there’s tough times and there’s something that needs to happen, restaurants will show up. They show up, that’s the phrase I’ve always said is restaurants just show up.”
By now you’ve probably heard about our “Savor life, Save a life” awareness campaign. Working with members of the local culinary community, we set a goal of recruiting 10,000 new and re-engaged donors by July.
Members like Jason and Debbie Frend Wilson, the owners of the Lakehouse Bellvue restaurant. Jason and Debbie have their own reasons why blood donation is so important to them. A few years back, Jason needed to have enough blood on hand for an operation to mend a tiny hole in his heart. His wife Debbie, lost a lot of blood during the birth of her first child.
So, each of them knows, they just know, how important having enough blood on hand is. Now, I should also mention that because of Savor Life Save a Life, Bloodworks has now topped 13,000 new and re-engaged donors, thanks to people like Jason and Debbie. And thanks to a conversation they’ve had with fellow restaurant owner Ethan Stowell.
You’ve no doubt heard that name. Ethan Stowell owns a lot of restaurants, Tavoláta, Staple & Fancy, How To Cook A Wolf, Ballard Pizza Company, The Victor Tavern, Victory Burger, and that’s just to name a few. I spoke to Ethan recently at the Victor Tavern in Belltown.
Ethan Stowell: Yeah, we’ve got a bunch of restaurants. We’ve been in the industry for a long time. I mean, ESR was founded in 2007. It was actually a little bit before that. My first restaurant was in 2003, but the company formed in 2007. And we’ve just been a growing company ever since then.
So, we’ve got spots in obviously Seattle. We just opened a place in Woodinville. We got spaces in Spokane. We’re starting construction on a spot in Boise, Idaho, in a couple of months. We got a restaurant in New York and, shockingly, we even have one in Japan. But that’s a longer story, but it’s all good.
John Yeager: What is it about the restaurant industry that got you started in the first place?
Ethan Stowell: Well, I mean, I started off my background as being a cook. And when you’re a kid everybody wants to be kind of like their dad. And my dad was not a chef or cook. He was an artist, but his hobby was cooking. So every day he came home and made dinner for the family. We always had dinner together. And you could tell he got a ton of joy and pleasure out of the process of cooking.
So it just kind of rubbed off. We always had a bunch of interesting things and unique things to eat. My diet growing up was very broad. We always had lamb, and crab, and steak, and chicken, and rabbit, all kinds of stuff. So it just kind of expanded my palette, and I enjoyed it.
And then I got into the restaurant industry and found out that I really liked the industry, and I liked the hours, which is night-time work. And I liked being in the kitchen I really liked working with my hands, I really liked the fast-paced aspect of the industry.
So it just kind of stuck and it’s just, I’ve been there ever since. I’m lucky. I started off and found out that my career and hobby are the same thing. And I haven’t had to really figure out what I wanted to do since I started this industry. I kind of knew it from the day I started.
John Yeager: Ethan Stowell is known for many things, but just try walking out of one of his restaurants, especially Tavoláta, without trying their homemade pasta. What is it about Italian cooking that we love? The country loves it, obviously, the city loves it, and that’s the direction Stowell took.
Ethan Stowell: Yeah. We’ve got a fair amount of Italian stuff for sure. I guess for the most part it’s the craft of cooking. Italian food is not pretentious. It’s handmade from scratch. Pasta is one of my favorite things to eat and cook. For those of you who’ve never worked in a restaurant, the most fun station to work in our restaurant is the pasta station because it’s the most fast-paced and busiest because everyone orders pasta.
And the pizza station, that’s another fun one. But the main thing about Italian food is it creates a sense of sharing, it creates a sense of family, it creates a sense of just gathering around hanging out, and having a good time. That’s what we like as a company is we like seeing people gathering around a table.
I started off being a more fine-dining chef. And then just kind of started spending a bunch of time in Italy, starting traveling there a bunch. And really started liking the…not just the food, which I loved obviously, but the culture, and the people, and just how they think about dinner, and lunch and eating. And how important it is not just to feed yourself but just to make sure you’re getting together with people and hanging out and checking in with each other. I think it’s a huge thing right now.
John Yeager: So, the pandemic hits you. One of the things that people have told me throughout this whole “Savor life, Save a life” campaign is that people come together in restaurants and that must have helped you get through all of this.
Ethan Stowell: Yeah. I mean, obviously, the pandemic was hard. In a lot of ways, it was sad, mostly, more than anything else. It was long, but you knew what you had to do. We went through the recession in 2008, and 2009, so we kind of had a road map and had a little dramatic hit in your business levels. Nothing prepared us for what this was but at least we had a little bit of a road map.
The restaurant industry, they stick together. We as a company at ESR, we’re definitely hard workers, we’re fighters. We weren’t going to go out that way. And it wasn’t fun. And like I said, it was sad because some people lost their jobs. We’re still at the spot of restaffing. It’s still a challenge these days.
John Yeager: So, you got involved with “Savor life, Save a life,” through Jason and Debbie Friend Wilson over at the Lakehouse Bellevue. Tell me a little bit about that conversation.
Ethan Stowell: Jason’s been a chef around Seattle for a long time and so have I. This is kind of an unwritten thing with restaurants and chefs is that “You support my thing, I’ll support yours.” But more importantly, what I’ve always said about restaurants is that when there’s tough times and there’s something that needs to happen, you know, restaurants will show up. They show up, that’s the phrase I’ve always said is restaurants just show up.
So, I mean, I think those things, it has an easy ask, it has an easy give. Jason was certainly behind it. When you feel the passion of somebody else supporting something, that passion rubs off. So if people were going to get involved in something, you know, we were happy to do it.
My main reason for doing it was because of Jason, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t recognize the need, obviously, that was great. And you told me today that the numbers exceeded what the goal was, which is fantastic. But our main thing is just about being a member of the community, it means you got to be involved and you got to show up. So we try to do as much as we can.
John Yeager: And show up and give blood.
Ethan Stowell: In this case, yes. I mean, you know we’re here. The restaurant industry nowadays is a little bit different than it was before. So, the restaurant industry is a work in progress right now. Right now, it’s in the process of redefining its values and culture, so we’ll see how that goes. I mean, that’s a big task we have that we want to take on in the next year or so.
John Yeager: So in a way, this campaign, bringing all these restaurants together, couldn’t have happened at a better time, if you will?
Ethan Stowell: I don’t think there’s ever a good time to need that much blood. So, but, yeah it’s nice, it was the first event we’ve done since the pandemic where a bunch of people from the restaurant industry got together, which was nice. Hey, we’re all in this together now, and we’re all supporting each other. And it felt good to be back to, like, what was kind of like normal.
John Yeager: Kind of like normal, wow.
Ethan Stowell: Kind of like normal.
John Yeager: Can’t wait for that to happen again.
Ethan Stowell: Whenever that’s going to be in the future. Whatever that’s going to be and whenever it’s going to be.
John Yeager: Thanks a lot.
Ethan Stowell: Thank you. Appreciate it.
John Yeager: Bloodworks wishes to thank all the restaurant owners, the chefs, the winemakers, the beer makers, and everyone involved with “Savor life, Saver a life.” Based on the success we’ve had with this campaign; plans are already underway to try it again. Do campaigns like this really make a difference?
Combined with more than 11,000 new and re-engaged donors from last year’s “Music In Our Blood” campaign, and the more than 13,000 new and re-engaged donors from “Savor life, Save a life,” and it adds up to more than 24,000 new and re-engaged donors. That’s during a crippling pandemic and right in the middle of what the American Red Cross calls, the lowest national blood levels in over 10 years. All those donors couldn’t have come at a time when they were needed more.
Our community’s blood supply remains in a critical state, and we need everyone to pitch in and help. Schedule a blood donation today!
Plasma Donor Making A Difference — Stanford Blood Center
Did you know that patients across the U.S. require nearly 10,000 units of plasma every day? Plasma is the yellow liquid portion of the blood in which the red cells, white cells and platelets are suspended. It contains numerous proteins and enzymes that play many different roles in your body. One of the roles is to help induce clotting and control bleeding. Patients who may require a plasma transfusion include burn and trauma victims, active bleeders and those with liver disease.
You can donate plasma every four weeks, but there is a limit to only 12 plasma donations each year. Plasma, when frozen, can last up to one year. However, once plasma is thawed, it will only last for 5 days which is why donations are so critical.
Dolores Montano is a long-time donor with Stanford Blood Center and is closing in on her 100th Milestone donation. The San Jose resident started donating plasma last year at our South Bay center and shared her experience with Ross Coyle, SBC’s Public Relations Officer.
Why do you donate?
It just seems like the right thing to do to help people who need something that I can give. Especially knowing that it’s something that can save a life. I had a friend who was donating, so I thought I’d give it a try. Now it’s become part of my routine.
Did you ever think you’d be closing in on 100 donations?
No, not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d reach 100 donations. I was a Four Seasons donor for many years and at that rate, it didn’t seem attainable, especially when I might travel to some places that would make me ineligible for a year. The first time I asked about donating platelets I was told that I wasn’t eligible because I’d just given birth. Later I mentioned that being A+ was sort of boring because there was never a call for it like there often is for O types (Lol). That’s when I found out that there’d been a change and I could be tested for eligibility to donate platelets. I did and once I started donating platelets regularly, I saw how I was inching closer to the 100 mark. Now I’m excited to be so close to hitting that milestone!
Why do you donate at Stanford Blood Center?
SBC held quarterly mobile drives at my former workplace, so it was easy to make an appointment to donate. For a while, coordinating the SBC blood drive was even part of my job. And if I missed donating at work for some reason, I’d just find a mobile drive somewhere else. Now the South Bay donation center in Campbell is close to home, not even 10 minutes away, so it’s very convenient. It’s been a good experience and the SBC team of phlebotomists are so helpful.
How did you start donating plasma and what has that experience been like for you?
My first plasma donation was during a platelet donation. There was a need that day and I was asked if I’d also donate plasma. I figured since I was already donating platelets it would be fine if they also kept my plasma. The experience was no different than what I’d become used to. In January of this year, I tested positive for COVID-19 and was deferred for the rest of the month. Then in April, I received a call from Dr. Suchi Pandey, Chief Medical Officer at SBC asking if I’d be interested in donating COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP). The plasma of my blood type was in low supply and after having COVID, my plasma would have antibodies that could help a recovering COVID patient, so I jumped at the chance to help them. In May, I started donating plasma with the Alyx machine and that has been a great experience. The machine separates and collects various blood components and returns what isn’t being used to the donor. I plan to continue donating platelets twice a month and plasma when it’s needed. That’s something that I really like, SBC won’t take what they can’t use.
What would you say to potential first-time donors who may be on the fence about donating?
I would tell them that it feels good knowing that something that your body is going to replenish anyway could save someone’s life. SBC makes it very convenient with evening and weekend hours, so the scheduling is easy. If you’re squeamish, don’t worry because the team members will take care of you and treat you with compassion. You’ll have a direct impact helping a patient in need.
What would you say to those individuals who may be considering donating plasma?
I’d suggest they read the patient stories on the SBC website to learn about the good you can do by donating and about the great need. Plasma is often needed by cancer patients, and we all know someone who has been affected by cancer, so wouldn’t you like it if plasma was available for a friend or loved one who needed it?
You can learn more about plasma donations and read other donor stories by visiting stanfordbloodcenter.org/plasma/.
Bloodworks is Community Ready for Anything, 24/7/365
What does “community readiness” look like for our community’s blood supply?
- Community Ready means at least 1,000 blood donations a day to make sure everyone who needs blood can get it;
- Community Ready means donors go to their donation appointments and make their next one before going home.
- Community Ready means we all, together, face any disaster or tragedy armed with a supply that’s ready for anything.
- Community Ready means blood donation becomes a habit, a purpose, a way of life, a way to say thank you to strangers you don’t even know, a way to share humanity, a way to spread love, a way – most of all – to give hope.
For our local blood supply, the summer season is no vacation. Right now, the number of blood units available for transfusion barely meets our community’s need, leading to a potential situation where a mass-casualty event like a shooting or natural disaster would devastate the supply and some people needing blood would have to go without.
Or, as Bloodworks Executive Vice President of Blood Services Vicki Finson said in this podcast episode:
“Emergencies can happen 24/7/365, and with the help of the community, the blood center needs to be prepared for whatever happens. It could be something large like a mass shooting, a train derailment, an earthquake or a very large, multiple vehicle accident, or it could be a combination of small things that add up to a day where there’s a lot of blood usage. We’re always trying to be prepared for that as best we can.”
“What happens in the worst case scenario and there is something like an Orlando or a Las Vegas and there just isn’t enough blood on hand?” asked producer Bill Harper.
“If something happened and it was really large and there wasn’t the available blood already on the shelf donated at least three of five days ago, people would die.”
There is often a big surge in blood donations following tragic events like the lines out the door we saw at our Olympia Donor Center after the Amtrak 501 crash in 2017, but it’s the donations made in the days before the tragedy that save lives on the day they happen.
Community Ready means people donate every 56 days to make sure their blood is ready for whoever needs it, whether they’re a heart transplant patient, an accident victim, or one-year-old baby just one transfusion away from their hard-fought remission. Community Ready means we get through anything, together.
With Bloodworks’ upcoming summer Blood Emergency Readiness Corps rotations, we could be called upon to transport 15 units of O- and O+ blood to the site of any disaster in the U.S. The PNW needs to be more Community Ready than ever. Make your summer blood donation appointment now to help make sure we’re ready for anything.
Bloodworks in the Community – Bloodworks Northwest BlogBloodworks Northwest Blog
Blood connects all of us as human beings. Bloodworks’ lifesaving mission allows us to connect and celebrate with members of the communities we serve around the year, 24/7/365.
However, the summer months give us an opportunity to not only share our mission but to recognize, commemorate, and honor others as we observe certain events that bring us together.
In June, we celebrated two important events: Juneteenth and Pride.
Iesha James and Rozi Romanesco spread awareness of Bloodworks Cord Blood Program at two Juneteenth events in Seattle.
70% of patients in need of a stem cell transplant will not find a donor within their family. Those patients will need to hope that there is an unrelated match within the international stem cell registry. Because genetics are tied to family ancestry, you’re more likely to find a match within your own ethnic background. Unfortunately, Black and African American patients have a lower chance of finding an unrelated match than individuals of other races.
Cord blood dramatically increases the potential for a match compared to adult bone marrow because the cells in the umbilical cord are more adaptable. This is one reason why it’s so important to have more Black and African American cord blood donors.
Iesha shares more on why you should consider donating your baby’s cord blood.
While Bloodworks serves everyone in our community in need of a lifesaving blood transfusion, it’s an unfortunate reality that many gay and bisexual men cannot donate blood due to FDA restrictions.
Bloodworks has been an active supporter of changing the MSM deferral for over a decade.
We participated in Seattle PrideFest to thank our LGBTQIA+ donors and to educate the community on other inclusive ways to get involved through donation for research, volunteer opportunities, and current job openings.
Want to do more? Local ad agency (and Bloodworks partner) Green Rubino put together a campaign to end donation discrimination.
Bloodworks staff in their own words
We were so pleased to return to PrideFest, and join for both days this year. The energy is always inspiring. Bloodworks is proud to stand with its LGBTQIA+ employees and support the broader Seattle community. Sharing our resources on cord blood and other donation opportunities is vital to our work, and it was a fantastic weekend meeting current and potential donors.
We talked to many people about community blood donation, and reminded quite a few to donate again! We also explained to many inquisitive visitors that folks ineligible for the community blood supply may be able to donate for research. Marci and Jesse from HR stopped by to deliver handouts about open positions, so we also shared info about promising new careers at Bloodworks. Of course, I shared the wonders that cord blood donation can do for patients suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell disease.
I really enjoyed being at Pride Fest this year and was very touched to see all the people who had interest in helping give back in some way – whether it be donations, volunteering or applying to work with us, it felt more like it should be called ‘Love Fest’ to me for that reason. Everyone there was so happy and so accepting of one another and it’s just great to be somewhere that everyone feels they can truly be themselves and not be judged, even if it is just for two days a year, it gives me hope for the future.
On a different note, I was a bit saddened by the fact that even in this day-in-age and with all the technology that we have for testing blood, etc., the FDA still states that homosexual men cannot donate blood unless they have abstained for 3 months. To me this is a little bit archaic and I wish it would change. One man came up and said he was saddened by this because he was in a bad car accident in HS and needed many pints of blood throughout his recovery and wishes that he was able to give back in some way all these years later but cannot because he is a gay man… it hurt to hear and I hope that it changes. Other than that, it was an amazing experience and I encourage everyone to go at least once in their lives! It was awesome to be there representing BWNW as well!
First off I want to say that that the people who joined us to represent Bloodworks truly represent our mission. They were so excited to tell everyone about the various options to help the community through blood donation and awareness. We had a lot of folks come up to tell us that they appreciate what we do, which meant so much. Many people who came up to our booth did not know that donating blood for research or creating awareness about our cord blood program can be hugely impactful in saving lives. We had a great chance to also create awareness about the initiatives to change the policies for blood donation to a more science based approach, which I think was appreciated.
Last weekend being my first time attending this event, I was thankful for the acceptance our community has for its people, and had a wonderful time despite the uncharacteristically hot weather!
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