Spilled Ink: Michael Hebb Wears Hope on His Sleeve

Once socially skewered, Seattle’s hippest host carries on with poetry and philanthropy at his side.

Photos by Sunny Facer

Michael Hebb’s only tattoo consists of three simple words: “hope doubles everything.” Inked in didot type on the inside of his forearm, the tattoo was made in Georgetown by Christopher Gay at Artcore Studios. “I never thought I’d have a tattoo,” the thirty-threeyear-old food maven says. “I kind of thought they were things that other people got.”

Then, three years ago, Hebb’s Portland restaurant network folded and he went through a very public divorce. It was then that a friend of his, publisher Matthew Stadler, reintroduced him to the poem “Cuff” by Lisa Robertson, which the two men had co-commissioned for a Portland reading and music series. “When he opened the book to that page, I said, ‘I need that on my arm.’”

A professional cook for twenty years, Hebb doesn’t call himself a chef. “Only because I have a lot of respect for chefs,” he says. “If you dedicate your life to food and to honing that craft, then you’re a chef. I dedicate myself to a lot of other things, too.”

Indeed. Hebb keeps many different projects simmering, usually mixing food, music, literature and community, as can be seen in the two underground dinner party series: One Pot, and Songs for Eating and Drinking. But Hebb is also currently an artist-in-residence at the Sorrento Hotel, where he has already helped launch a year of creative public programming as part of the establishment’s centennial celebration. Events include Midnight Symposiums, this month’s Chamber vs. Chamber event, plus an innovative hotel bookstore, which allows guests to order books like room service.

He is also taking a large role in the GIVE campaign, which Caffé Vita is spearheading with the help of the Crocodile, Seattle City of Music and other organizations. The effort will raise money for charity by selling a holiday compilation featuring Seattle’s top musicians. Starting November 17, the album will be sold as a digipack at Sonic Boom, Easy Street, University Bookstore and Caffé Vita with all proceeds going to Arts Corps and local food banks.

“Within two weeks, we got almost thirty of the most vital bands making music right now to give us an exclusive track, including Ben Gibbard and the Long Winters, along with a printing press, graphic designers, web developers — all for free,” Hebb says. “I think that tells an awesome story about Seattle: people are passionate here. And they get shit done.”