A new year means new ownership for Jens' Restaurant.
On Jan. 1, Executive Chef Nancy Alip took over the Midtown fine dining establishment started 27 years ago by Jens Hansen and his wife, Annelise.
The restaurant, known for its French- and Danish-inspired cuisine, opened in 1988 in the Midtown strip mall it still occupies. Known for its seafood and for expanding the fine dining options for Anchorage beyond downtown, the restaurant has been a jumping-off point for a number of chefs at high-end restaurants across the city.
Annelise Hansen said after Jens died in 2012, she asked Alip to stay on as a partner, giving her a small percentage of the ownership of the restaurant for every year she stayed on until she was ready to purchase the restaurant herself.
The transfer of ownership happened late last year, with Alip officially taking over the restaurant at the beginning of 2016.
Alip, a 34-year-old from Anchorage who attended culinary school at Portland Western Culinary Institute, has worked at Jens' for almost 14 years. She said it's fair to say she came of age in the restaurant. She began when she was 20, celebrated her 21st birthday at the restaurant, and took over as chef de cuisine when she was 25 and six months pregnant with her son.
"There are a lot of milestones in this place for me," she said.
Annelise, 68, is ready to retire after decades of 50- and 60-hour workweeks. On Monday she was still at the restaurant finishing paperwork before heading on a vacation to Florida. She said when she returns from the trip she'll be officially retired. While she plans to travel, Hansen said she has no plans to move away from Alaska any time soon.
"It was a good way to turn it over to someone who would continue the business," Hansen said. "I worked so hard on it for so many years and I just want to see it continue."
Alip said while she'll be making small changes, she isn't planning on majorly overhauling anything, including the name and the menu.
"I would like for the tradition and feel of the place to continue on," she said. "But we will change. Certainly it's not the place it was in 1988."
The first year the restaurant was open "it was a wilder place. But we're not going to revert back," Alip said.
The restaurant, per tradition, is closed for the month of January and will reopen in February.