Seattle's Food Establishment: Inaugural List

Seattle magazine's inaugural list of the 70 most powerful players in the Seattle food scene.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Who keeps Seattle’s food engines running? Who has the power, the respect and the influence to set trends, challenge the status quo and reshape the culinary landscape? We sussed out the people and institutions who have had—and continue to have—the most substantial impact on how we eat, what we eat and what we'll want to eat in the future. Here, in order of influence, is our first annual list of the 70 power players in Seattle's Food Establishment.

Use the arrows above to navigate through the list, presented in reverse order.

70. David Holcomb
Founder and CEO, Chef’n

Est.: 1982. Because: From garlic crushers to extra-powerful juicers, the company Holcomb founded in 1982 has developed ingenious, smartly designed products that make cooking easier. The company has won a slew of industry design awards, including one in 2010 for its “PalmZester,” which neatly collects and stores rinds as you zest them. New projects: The company partnered with a private equity firm, CID Capital, and expects to expand dramatically over the next five years, both in the U.S. and around the globe. Employees: 26.
chefn.com

69. Gary and Nancy Figgins
Founders and owners, Leonetti Cellars

Est.: 1977. Because: The first winery in Walla Walla—named for Gary’s grandparents—has been thriving for 35 years, making acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that have been ranked among the best in the world, and sparking Washington’s boutique wine boom. New projects: Chris Figgins, Gary and Nancy’s son and now the company’s president and winemaking director, launched a separate winery and released an estate-grown, red Bordeaux blend under the Figgins label last year. The family also started Lostine Cattle Company last year, raising Scottish Highland cattle on certified organic pasture. Employees: 25.
figginsfamily.com

68. Kent Bakke
CEO, La Marzocco international

Est.: 1994. Because: Bakke is one of the reasons Seattle is known as a coffee mecca. On a 1978 trip to Italy, he became enamored with espresso and the coffee culture, and 16 years later formed a company to import high-end La Marzocco machines to the U.S. Bakke is a coffee evangelist, continuing to push innovations in the espresso world. He also helped bring fabulous chocolate to the U.S. as a former investor in Claudio Corallo, producer of some spectacularly intense chocolate. New projects: Baristas nationwide are lusting after La Marzocco’s new $13,000–$24,000 Strada machines, which allow them vastly more control over shots. Employees: 20 in the U.S., 50 in Italy.
lamarzocco.com

67. Dick Cantwell
Head brewer, cofounder and co-owner, Elysian Brewing Company

Est.: 1996. Because: He’s one the country’s most respected brewers, especially for his innovative brews like Avatar Jasmine IPA and Rosemary’s Baby IPA. New projects: A new production brewery in Georgetown will allow the company to brew 65,000 barrels this year. (Cantwell says they expect to see 200 percent growth this year alone.) Employees: 200.
elysianbrewing.com

66. Smith Brothers Farms
Est.:
Founded by Benjamin Smith in 1920. Because: For 90 years, Kent-based Smith Brothers has delivered fresh milk from local cows; the company currently delivers to 40,000 households. New projects: Along with dairy products, the company also delivers an expanding selection of local products, including Erin Baker’s cookies (based in Bellingham), Cougar Mountain cookie dough and Vashon Island Roasterie coffee. Employees: 115.
smithbrothersfarms.com

65. Geoff Forcum, Kimi Galasso, Christopher Galasso and Keith Swanson

Founders and co-owners of Blue Valley Meats

Est.: 2011. Because: When Thundering Hooves went out of business last year, it was Forcum and Christopher and Kimi Galasso who bought up the existing inventory and opened Walla Walla–based Blue Valley Meats to fill the growing demand for grass-fed beef. The group buys meat from a very select group of ranchers near Walla Walla, and sells directly to customers all around the state. The neighborhood buying clubs—similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA) delivery—that Thundering Hooves established are going strong; there are 20 in Seattle alone. New projects: “We’re looking to expand our poultry production this year,” says butcher and co-founder Christopher Galasso. They’re also expanding their facility, and partnering with local wineries for events and charities. Employees: 6.
bluevalleymeats.com

64. Jon Rowley
Branding and marketing expert, food consultant

Est.: 1981. Because: You’ve heard of Copper River salmon, kumamoto oysters and Shuksan strawberries? That’s largely because of Jon Rowley, who began as a consultant to Ray’s Boathouse and McCormick’s Fish House and, for three decades, has exalted local foods and restaurants to a national audience. He’s worked with Restaurants Unlimited, Anthony’s Restaurants, The Brooklyn, Elliott’s Oyster House and others. His latest projects include working with Taylor Shellfish Farms to open the new Melrose Market store as well as promoting its oysters via a midnight, low-tide oyster bus. New projects: Rowley is developing a new crab-cracking tool; he teaches classes on the craft at the Taylor Shellfish store in Melrose Market.
jonrowley.com

63. Lisa Dupar
Chief creative officer, Lisa Dupar Catering

Est.: 1985, when she started her catering company; Pomegranate Bistro opened in 2005. Because: The noted caterer is a crowd pleaser, updating Southern style with Northwest ingredients at both events and at her restaurant. Her lovely first cookbook, Fried Chicken & Champagne, won a major national award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, unusual for a self-published title. New projects: A second cookbook, a new bar connected to Pomegranate, and a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, where she spent childhood summers. Employees: 150.
duparandcompany.com

62. Bill Marler
Food-borne illness lawyer at Marler Clark

Est.: 1993, when he successfully sued Jack in the Box over an E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 500 people in Seattle. Because: As the country’s leading food-safety litigator, working with people infected with E. coli, salmonella and other food-contamination illnesses, Marler has done much to bring food safety issues to the forefront. New projects: Marler played a part in getting the Food Safety Modernization Act passed in 2010; the act aims to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks rather than react to them once they’ve already occurred. It’s the first piece of food legislation passed in 80 years.
billmarler.com

61. Gwenyth Bassetti
Owner, Grand Central Bakery

Est.: 1989 (after a 1972 venture called The Bakery). Because: Bassetti pioneered Seattle’s booming Italian-style, hand-formed artisan bread scene. When you tear into a crusty loaf instead of a soft roll, send her a silent “thanks.” The breads are still delicious and made from scratch, with a bakery that supplies scores of restaurants and grocery stores, and three neighborhood bakery/cafes. New projects: Remodeling the production bakery on E Marginal Way S, including installing a 40,000-pound Italian hearth oven. A new, afternoon baking cycle will make for even fresher breads. And watch for new specialty seasonal loaves using locally grown and milled grains. Employees: 100.
grandcentralbakery.com

60. Nancy Leson
Food writer at The Seattle Times and food commentator for KPLU

Est.: 1998, when she became a staff writer at the Times. Her food-writing career began in 1993 after answering a want ad for an unpaid intern at Seattle Weekly. Because: After nearly two decades on the beat, she’s still breaking news and providing depth few can match. She smoothly navigated a move to a mostly blogging job, winning a first-place award for best blog from the Association of Food Journalists. Her warm, funny, authoritative posts show that she’s loved by readers, trusted by restaurateurs and not too proud to sling dishes to help out a cook who’s in the weeds. New projects: Yakking it up weekly on KPLU while she takes personal leave from the Times (she’s back in the summer) to catch up with friends and family, cook and hit restaurants she loves.

59. Tim’s Cascade Chips

Est.: Founded by Tim Kennedy in 1986, now owned by Pinnacle Foods Group. Because: It’s hard to remember a time before the red-and-white-striped bag beckoned to us with its thick, salty, sturdy potato chips. The sea salt and vinegar and the jalapeño chips taste even better because they’re made in our state, in Algona. New projects: The company launches specialty flavors each year, and this year it’s mango habañero. Employees: 100 in Washington; 4,300 company-wide.
timschips.com

58. Greg Atkinson
Chef and food writer, owner of Marché

Est.: 1996, when he started as chef at Canlis, though he developed his style in previous years spent cooking in the San Juan Islands. Because: Atkinson, one of the original creators of Northwest cuisine, continues the mix of inspired cooking and thoughtful food writing that’s brought him fans over decades. His sixth and latest cookbook, At the Kitchen Table: The Craft of Cooking at Home, drew great reviews, including a big nod from The New York Times. His own restaurant, Marché, which opened in March, “feels like a real turning point in our lives,” he says. New projects: His “phenomenal, approachable and affordable” wine list, developed with help from Shayn Bjornholm (examination director for the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas). He’s always working on the next book. Employees: 12–16.
restaurantmarchebainbridge.com

57. Laura Olson and Chris Pardo
Cofounders, Pterodactyl group

Est.: 2009. Because: It was a haute hot dog shop (Po Dog) that started it all, but look at them go (Auto Battery, Grim's, The Woods, The Social, Manhattan Drugs)! The duo has taken the city by storm, changing the face of nightlife and creating alluring spaces in the process. New projects: The Social, a nightclub on Olive Way, was set to open in March. And an ambitious Ballard project opening this spring includes a Po Dog, a Norwegian small-plates eatery (Queen of Norway) and another nightclub. Employees: 58.
pterodactylgroup.com

56. Tamara Murphy
Founder/chef, Terra Plata and Elliott Bay Bookstore Cafe

Est.: Opened Brasa in 1999. Because: Murphy (who most know from her Belltown restaurant, Brasa, which closed in 2010) has long been on the forefront of farm-to-table, whole-beast cookery and has been a farmers market activist for years. New projects: This summer, Murphy’s brand-new Terra Plata will provide fresh produce for the restaurant and its cocktail bar from its rooftop garden. Employees: 25.
terraplata.com; elliottbaycafe.com

55. Pagliacci Pizza
Est.: Founded by Dorene Centioli-McTigue in 1979; owned by Matt Galvin and Pat McDonald since 2000. Because: It’s been Seattle’s go-to delivery pizza for more than 30 years. The company’s 22 pizzerias and three support locations feature pizzas with Cascioppo Brothers sausage and Salumi meats, farm-fresh toppings and seasonal specials we love, like the salame picante. New projects: Pagliacci now uses Forest Stewardship Council–certified materials (sustainably sourced) for its pizza boxes, the first in the country to do so. Employees: 500.
pagliacci.com

54. Ron Post and Ilyse Rathet
Founders and co-owners, Ritrovo

Est.: 1999. Because: This married couple continues to be one of the biggest behind-the-scenes sources for the new and interesting imported ingredients that spring up around town. Remember when trofie pasta was the new craze at area restaurants? That was Ritrovo at work. Like the lovely, light cardoon-scented honey at Cafe Juanita? Again, Ritrovo. Post and Rathet have gone beyond their Italian-import origins, scoring a gold award for outstanding cheese this year from the National Association for Specialty Food Trade for a partnership with Mt. Townsend Creamery. Employees: 6.
ritrovo.com

53. Ron Zimmerman and Carrie Van Dyck
Owners, The Herbfarm

Est.: 1986 as a restaurant, though its genesis was as a 1970s herb farm. Because: They made us see that natural, local and organic could translate into fabulous gourmet feasts. Zimmerman was the original chef, then handed the reins to superstar Jerry Traunfeld for 17 years, and then on to new kitchen teams. Zimmerman keeps pushing the boundaries of true farm-to-table cooking and ingredients; no one gets closer to a true "100-mile dinner" than he does, with crew members evaporating their own salt and grinding deer antlers for baking powder substitutes. We only wish the pricey place (the nine-course dinner with paired wines runs $179–$205 per person) was more accessible to diners with smaller wallets. New projects: Talented young chef Chris Weber now heads the kitchen. Look for new 100-mile “old is new” projects, such as using sunlight to extract flavor from pine buds for a new dessert syrup. Also watch for heirloom tomatoes grown with the help of master gardener Tom Wagner, and wines created especially for the restaurant to augment deep-cellared treasures such as its 1795 Madeira. Employees: 35.
theherbfarm.com

52. Brett Baba and Jim Graham
Founders and owners, Graham Baba Architects

Est.: 2006. Because: You’ve likely dined or shopped in one of the boutique firm’s projects this year: Fremont’s Revel, Ballard’s Fat Hen restaurant, the Kohlstrand Building (home to Staple & Fancy Mercantile and The Walrus and the Carpenter), and the Melrose Market among them. The look is “industrial meets functionally charming”; the company is setting the tone for many of the city’s hottest restaurants and bars. New projects: You’ve heard that the Seattle Center's "food court" (now, The Armory) is getting a face lift? Well, it’s these guys and gals who are doing the work. There’s also a future Skillet Diner in the works, an Eltana bakery north of the Ship Canal and possibly a second location for Mezcaleria Oaxaca. Employees: 10.
grahambaba.com

51. FareStart
Est.: 1992. Because: It’s helped thousands of homeless or otherwise disadvantaged people get training for food-service and restaurant jobs. Founded by David Lee (who went on to found Field Roast) when he was serving meals to the homeless from Seattle’s Josephinum hotel, FareStart’s crew cooks up good food, winning fans at the FareStart cafe and catering gigs. Now run by director David Carleton, the organization is consistently persuading top chefs to help out, and it won a coveted James Beard award for its humanitarian work. New projects: In 2011, FareStart launched a national program called Catalyst Kitchens to help expand its successes to other cities. It will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year with various special events. Employees: 75 full-time employees.
farestart.org

50. Nathan Myhrvold
Author of Modernist Cuisine

Est.: 2011, when after 14 years at Microsoft and co-founding Intellectual Ventures, an invention and licensing company in 2000, he started The Cooking Lab, a subsidiary limited liability company (LLC), as an outlet for his passion for food and publishing. Because: Myhrvold is the Superman—or, more appropriately, the Tony Stark—of food. He combines a lifelong craze for good cooking, a brilliant scientific mind, and the wealth, patience and peerless obsessiveness required to discover new techniques and disprove old canards. His six-volume opus, Modernist Cuisine, created through years of research and a super high-tech cooking lab, is becoming a new Escoffier for high-powered, home-based geeks as well as culinary students and top-of-the-line chefs. (Want a down-to-earth tip for the rest of us? Aerate your good red wine in a blender; it really works.) New projects: Modernist Cuisine was recently released in French, German and Spanish, and there are more translations to come. Employees: Between a dozen and 70 people at a time worked on Modernist Cuisine.
modernistcuisine.com

49. Steven Stone
President, Washington Distillers Guild; Founder and head distiller at Sound Spirits

Est.: 2008. Because: The goal of the guild, which formed after the passing of the craft distillery law in 2008 (making distilling legal in Washington state), is to promote a thriving local distillery industry. As the effects of Initiative 1183 (the bill passed last year that privatizes the liquor industry) are felt by the many fledgling distilleries in the coming months, the Washington Distillers Guild will continue to help guide the Liquor Control Board by providing insight into these distilleries’ needs. New projects: Riding out the storm that many believe I-1183 will cause, including a price hike for locally distilled spirits, due to increased taxes. Members: 40 and growing.
washingtondistillersguild.org

48. Arnold Shain
Founder and president, The Restaurant Group

Est.: 1997, though Shain has been in the restaurant industry since the ’60s. Because: Shain is officially a consultant, but that sounds too hands off for what the guy The Seattle Times’ Nancy Leson once dubbed “Yenta the Restaurant Matchmaker” actually does. From small independent restaurateurs to global chains, Shain connects partners, money, ideas, sales plans and new blood. Recently, he’s had a hand in projects from the South Lake Union opening of Lunchbox Laboratory to the soup-dumpling smash hit of Taiwan-based chain Din Tai Fung, as well as Emmer & Rye, Pyramid Brewery, and the Eastlake, Southlake and Greenlake Grills. New projects: Working with 15 clients on new developments and expansions. Employees: 6.
restaurantgroup.com

47. Charles and Rose Anne Finkel
Owners, Pike Brewing Company

Est.: 1989. Because: Charles Finkel, one of the first craft brewers in Seattle and the mentor to innumerable local and national brewing talents, started out as a beer and wine importer. But soon Charles and his wife, Rose Anne, began making beer at the then-named Pike Place Brewery. No slacker, Finkel keeps innovating, introducing three new seasonal beers last year. New projects: New beer, including the Pike Post Alley porter; in February, Pike Brewing’s Space Needle golden ale won a competition for their Pike Space Needle Golden Anniversary IPA to be named the official beer of the Space Needle’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. Employees: 80.
pikebrewing.com

46. Thierry Rautureau
Chef and owner, Luc and Rover’s

Est.: 1987. Because: The one sure beacon of French fine dining in Seattle has long been Rover’s. But with Luc, the corner bistro, Rautureau (aka  “The Chef in the Hat”) proved he can also do easygoing and personable. Happily, the granddaddy is still going strong: Rover’s celebrates its 25th birthday this year; Luc turns 2 next month. New projects: “In the Kitchen With Tom and Thierry,” the Saturday radio show that Tom Douglas and Rautureau hosted for years, was cancelled in 2010. But now it’s back! “Seattle Kitchen” airs on KIRO-FM on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. and again on Sundays at 10 a.m. Employees: 55.
thechefinthehat.com

45. James Miller

Owner and pastry chef, Cafe Besalu

Est.: 2000. Because: Twelve years into the business, Miller’s quality has never waned, and he continues to set the bar for pastry in Seattle; many consider his pastry to be the best in town. Consistency is key. Says Miller, “Our thing has always been to keep it really simple and keep the quality high.” Employees: 10.
cafebesalu.com

44. Jamie Boudreau
Owner and bartender, Canon
Est.: 2011. Because: As the bartender many credit with pushing Seattle onto the craft cocktail forefront, Boudreau finally opened his own cocktail bar last fall. And what a bar it is: Capitol Hill’s Canon feels more like a cocktail museum than some newfangled cocktail hangout. And don’t forget: Murray Stenson tends bar there, too. New projects: A cocktail book is coming! Plus, Canon is adding brunch, and Boudreau will also teach whiskey classes at the bar. Employees: 15. canonseattle.com

43. Ron Cohn
Owner, Consolidated Restaurants
Est.: 1951. Because: The Cohn family (founder David and his son and the current owner, Ron) brought us what many consider to be Seattle’s finest steak and oyster houses, the iconic Metropolitan Grill and Elliott’s. (The restaurant group also owns several Wing Dome and Steamers restaurants.) New projects: A new Wing Dome in West Seattle. The Met now offers Australian Wagyu beef—one of just four restaurants in the U.S. to do so. Employees: 350.
consolidatedrestaurants.com

42. Brian McCracken and Dana Tough
Chefs/owners, mccracken tough

Est.: 2008, when they opened Spur Gastropub. Because: In four short years, the chef duo has dabbled in molecular gastronomy (at Spur) and brought Seattle one of its finest speakeasy-inspired craft cocktail bars: Tavern Law. New projects: This year, they took over the corner that housed Restaurant Zoë for 12 years to open The Coterie Room, where gussied-up comfort food and carefully prepared classic cocktails rule. Employees: 72. mccrackentough.com

41. Renee Erickson
Chef/owner of Boat Street Cafe, chef/co-owner, The Walrus and the Carpenter

Est.: 1998, when she opened Boat Street Cafe. Because: She’s wowed us again with The Walrus and the Carpenter. The New York Times featured the white-washed oyster spot on the cover of the travel section last year, and Bon Appétit named The Walrus and the Carpenter one of the top 10 new restaurants in the country. Employees: 50.
boatstreetcafe.com; thewalrusbar.com

40. Michael Teer
Owner, Pike & Western Wine Shop and Soul Wine

Est.: 1980, when he started working at Pike & Western; he bought it in 1991. Because: With a keen palate and a knack for promoting promising boutique wineries (both in Washington and in Europe), Michael Teer is easily one of the most respected wine guys in town. The nearly 40-year-old Pike & Western is thriving in Pike Place Market, and last year, Teer opened Soul Wine in a South Lake Union space he shares with Tom Douglas’ Serious Pie and Serious Biscuit. Employees: 5.
pikeandwestern.com; soulwineseattle.com

39. Jason Stratton
Executive chef and partner, Spinasse and Artusi

Est.: 2008. Because: The restaurant that taught Seattle how to pronounce “tajarin,” the supple, impossibly fine-cut egg noodle, remains the most lovely Italian cascina in town. Since taking over as head chef, Jason Stratton has been named one of Food & Wine’s best new chefs. Last year, Stratton designed Spinasse’s attached aperitivo bar, Artusi, and doubled the square footage of the restaurant itself. New projects: Stratton told us to “keep an eye out for special collaborative events at Spinasse and Artusi, with guest spots from others within the food community.” Employees: 37.
spinasse.com; artusibar.com

38. Kathy Casey
President, Kathy Casey Food Studios, Liquid Kitchen and Dish D’Lish

Est.: 1988, founded as “Kazzy & Associates.” Because: Behind Casey’s folksy, fun persona lies a folksy, fun, razor-sharp businesswoman. She was an early leader in the cocktail craze, developing specialty drink menus years before every corner restaurant was talking up bitters and extra-big ice cubes. These days, she’s creating cocktail programs for hotels from Dubai to Cairo to Kuala Lumpur—good thing the globe trotter also runs Dish D’Lish, a rare haven of edibility at Sea-Tac airport. New projects: She’s finishing her 10th book, D’Lish Deviled Eggs; shooting a new season of her Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen cocktail show on the Small Screen Network; adding hand-crafted sodas to Dish D’Lish; and working on concepts for a Liquid Kitchen bar.
kathycasey.com

37. Andrew Stout and Wendy Munroe
Full Circle farm

Est.: 1996. Because: They built a 5-acre farm into a tristate organic delivery service that proves you can maintain quality even while increasing quantity. New projects: Adding a home delivery service, including not just their own fruits and vegetables, but grocery partners such as Theo Chocolate, on top of their omnipresent farmers market presence. Achieving a voluntary national government certification for food safety in two areas: good agricultural practices and good handling practices. Expanding into California, working with growers in the Bay Area. Employees: 100–150, depending on the season.
fullcircle.com

36. Chateau Ste. Michelle

Est.: 1967. Because: Washington’s oldest winery is the leading Riesling producer in North America. (The Los Angeles Times rated the wine the best it tasted in a 1974 blind tasting, bringing much acclaim to the then-young winery.) But it’s not all Riesling: The winery produces 2 million cases of its various wines—including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and numerous blends—each year. But it’s winery CEO Ted Baseler’s dedication to Washington wines in general—not just his own—that has endeared Chateau Ste. Michelle to wine lovers of all stripes; after a catastrophic freeze and crop failure in 2004, Baseler supplied grapes to at least a dozen hard-hit wineries, essentially saving the season. Employees: 800.
ste-michelle.com

35. Dick Spady
President, Dick’s Drive-In

Est.: 1954, when the first Dick’s opened in Wallingford. Because: After almost 60 years in the fast-food business, the Spady family is still going strong: Last year they opened the sixth Dick’s, in Edmonds. The company is iconic, its base salary and benefits package admirable, and it still promotes the family ideals so many of us feel wistful about. Employees: 180.
ddir.com

34. Chuck Bundrant
Chair, Trident Seafoods

Est.: 1973. Because: Trident is the largest vertically integrated (meaning: catch and process) seafood company in North America. In the past six years, Trident has expanded from providing food to restaurants to adding club stores, such as Costco, and retail to its list of clients. Employees: 7,000–8,000; seasonally.
tridentseafoods.com

33. Terry Halverson
Founder, owner, president and CEO, Metropolitan Market

Est.: 1971. Because: At the age of 16, Terry Halverson began working at the Queen Anne Thriftway (which later became Metropolitan Market) as a courtesy clerk. Now president and CEO, Halverson, along with Dick Rhodes, transitioned six existing grocery stores to Metropolitan Markets beginning in 2003, including the Queen Anne Thriftway, which is shuttering late this summer. New projects: In recent years, Met Market launched its own wine and champagne labels; in 2010, it expanded to the Eastside, opening a store in Kirkland. Met Market was chosen Grocery Store with Best Selection of Washington Wines in Seattle magazine’s Readers’ Choice Best of 2011 awards. Employees: More than 700.
metropolitan-market.com

32. Molly Moon Neitzel
Owner, Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream

Est.: 2008. Because: In 2011, Molly Moon’s added three locations; in just four years, the company has grown to include five ice cream shops and one ice cream truck. New projects: The Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream cookbook (Sasquatch Books) will be published next month, and although she doesn’t supply details, Neitzel told us to watch for “an exciting partnership between Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream and Sur La Table in 2012.”
Employees: 35 in fall/winter, 60 in spring/summer.
mollymoonicecream.com

31. Fran Bigelow
Founder, owner and president, Fran’s Chocolates

Est.: 1982. Because:  Before there was salted caramel everything, Bigelow was making her sensational caramels dipped in milk or dark chocolate with fine grains of sea salt placed atop. (She now sells caramels with smoked salt, too.) The quality never wanes, likely due to the fact that Bigelow is still running the show (now with the help of her daughter, Andrina, and son Dylan, a chocolatier). New projects: A larger production facility is needed to keep up with demand; the company had its best sales last year. In June, the company celebrates its 30th anniversary. Employees: 65.
franschocolates.com

30. Jim Drohman
Executive chef and co-owner, Le Pichet and Café Presse

Est.: 2000. Because: Before partnering with Joanne Herron to open Le Pichet, Drohman was the celebrated chef at then-marvelous Campagne. He now heads two quietly outstanding and sophisticated French restaurants, which he thankfully keeps open from the earliest morning hours until well after dark. On a personal front, Drohman spent most of 2011 battling lymphoma; he is now in total remission. New projects: Earlier this year, Café Presse began hosting Corner Table fixed-price 3-course dinners (approx. $23; $38 with wine), held once per quarter. Employees: About 70.
lepichetseattle.com; cafepresseseattle.com

29. Mark and Michael Klebeck and Joel Radin
Owners, Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts

Est.: 2002. Because: Downright delicious doughnuts served up with a sleek sense of style. When the president of the United States stops at your cafe for a doughnut break (as Barack Obama did in 2010), you’re already doing pretty well. But carb kings Mark and Michael Klebeck, along with partner Joel Radin, also broke into grocery stores in a major way when they started supplying doughnuts and joe to 68 QFC markets in Oregon and Washington. New projects: Watch for more doughnuts on the go as the brothers expand their fleet of mobile Airstream units; fry ’em up at home with the new Top Pot cookbook cowritten by Jess Thomson. Employees: 110.
toppotdoughnuts.com

28. Jerry Traunfeld
Chef/owner, Poppy

Est.: 2008. Because: The longtime Herbfarm chef (many credit Traunfeld for the Herbfarm’s national renown), James Beard award winner and mentor to legions of Seattle chefs struck out on his own with an unusual concept—Indian-influenced thalis—in an unlikely locale at the then-scruffy northern edge of Broadway. In four years, the restaurant has become a thriving, affordable destination for inspired flavors and terrific cocktails, all showcasing Traunfeld’s inimitable flare with herbs. Employees: 34.
poppyseattle.com

27. Evan Andres
Owner, Columbia City Bakery

Est.: 2005. Because: The bakery that feels like it’s been in Columbia City forever is actually just 6 years old. In its relatively short life, it’s had a strong impact; in fact, more than 60 Seattle restaurants now feature the bakery’s breads on their menus. More than that, creating a warm welcome is important to the bakery’s success, too. “It’s such a gathering spot for the neighborhood and community,” says Andres. “As long as we can do that, I think we’ll be OK.” New projects: Last year Andres began a community supported bakery program based on the popular CSA (community supported agriculture) model, wherein local farms deliver boxes of produce regularly to subscribers. Employees: 40.
columbiacitybakery.com

26. Scott Staples
Chef/owner, Restaurant Zoë, Quinn’s Pub and Uneeda Burger

Est.: 2000. Because: After a decade in Belltown with his first eatery, Restaurant Zoë, Staples reopened Restaurant Zoë on a bustling block on Capitol Hill earlier this year. He’s also kept—and attracted—supremely talented chefs, most notably the former Michael Mina chef Jeremy Ravetz, who’s now heading the kitchen at Quinn’s. On a more personal note, Staples tells us he’s celebrating another milestone this year: 25 years with his wife (and the designer of all three restaurants), Heather. Employees: 75.
restaurantzoe.com

25. Eric Banh
Co-owner, manager of development, menu planning and quality control, Monsoon and ba bar; minority owner, Baguette Box

Est.: Monsoon, 1999. Because: It’s hard to remember a Seattle before the reliably delicious Monsoon. Banh is due credit for introducing Vietnamese food to many Seattleites. In the years since, he’s opened a second Monsoon (in Bellevue), and the open-all-day Ba Bar on Capitol Hill, where diners stop in for pastry in the morning, a big bowl of outstanding pho midday, or broken rice with roasted chicken, noodle bowls, dumplings and so much else come nighttime. New projects: Look for changes in Monsoon’s pastry program, as Ba Bar’s Karen Krol has moved to the restaurant. Employees: Approximately 75.
monsoonrestaurants.com

24. Jody Hall
founder and owner, Cupcake Royale

Est.: 2003. Because: Hall first brought the cupcake craze to Seattle, and she’s always leavened her snazzy cakes with a dose of social conscience. She sources 66 percent of her ingredients locally, has gone to Washington, D.C., to push for issues such as health insurance (which her own employees get in her bakeries and five cafes) and marriage equality. She’s also unafraid to turn her lens on her own products, calling in baking goddess Sue McCown to revamp her recipes into moister versions that taste as good as they look. New projects: A reformulated “Deathcake Royale,” a miniature version of her signature Valentine’s treat. This year, also look for cake pops and other new treats. Employees: 75.
cupcakeroyale.com

23. Josh Henderson
Founder and chef, Skillet Street Food

Est.: 2007. Because: His Skillet Street Food Airstream trailer was a game changer (and sometimes a rule breaker) for Seattle’s street-food scene, and he’s been a mentor to others trying to follow the mobile-truck path. He’s an idea guy as well as a killer cook: the chef’s burgers, poutine and “bacon jam” have won him a national following, with big names such as Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Sara Moulton throwing him love bombs. A brick-and-mortar Skillet Diner, which opened last May, helps him keep it real; updated classics such as the waffles and pork belly couldn’t taste any better if they were served off a truck. New projects: A Skillet cookbook comes out in July; he’s planning new expansions and at press time had just announced a new location inside the revamped food court (now The Armory) at Seattle Center. Advertising Age magazine recently called Skillet one of America’s hottest brands. Employees: About 90.
skilletstreetfood.com

22. Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi
Chefs/owners of Joule, Revel and Quoin

Est.: 2007. Because: It’s hard to believe it’s been less than five years since the married chefs Rachel Yang (who hails from Thomas Keller’s four-star Per Se) and Seif Chirchi opened their Wallingford firecracker of a restaurant, Joule. An even bigger hit: Their second restaurant, Fremont’s Korean-influenced, affordable and downright fun Revel, which was hailed by this magazine and others (there was that mention in The New York Times, too) as being one of the best new restaurants of last year. New projects: Joule is moving to a new location this summer at Stone Way and 35th. Employees: 30.
revelseattle.com

21. Jennifer Shea
Owner, Trophy Cupcakes

Est.: 2007. Because: When her luscious cupcakes caught the eye of Martha Stewart’s advance teams, Shea refused to mail samples that might crumble or go stale; instead, she packed up a KitchenAid and hopped on a plane to bake them fresh, winning a spot on her hero’s television show. Lots of talents are dolloped together in Shea’s stores; moxie and business sense, sprightly designs and, most important, moist cakes, fine flavors and decadent frosting. In addition to her three locations, Shea also added a party shop at Wallingford Center and an occasional pop-up at Pacific Place. New projects: New flavors inspired by “ice cream parlor favorites,” and a bigger focus on parties. Employees: About 35.
trophycupcakes.com

20. Joe Whinney
Founder and CEO, Theo Chocolate

Est.: 2006. Because: Theo has come to be known for responsible practices, philanthropy (proceeds benefit everything from chimpanzee habitat to farmland trusts) and most important, incredibly tasty chocolate; we’ve enjoyed Theo chocolate infused with beer, whiskey, herbs, teas and more. Theo recently began working with farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to begin using their beans in Theo chocolate. New projects: Theo has a new cocoa bean roaster, and a new tour experience, which allows you to customize your own confection. Theo is also planning to expand manufacturing of its cocoa products. Employees: 70.
theochocolate.com

19. Murray Stenson

Bartender extraordinaire

Est.: Started bartending in 1976, at the age of 27. Because: “Mur the Blur,” who headed the bar at the Zig Zag Café from 2001 until 2011, and began bartending at Canon last August, has been named to every Best Bartenders list that’s been written in the last, oh, decade or so, from Playboy to GQ. Stenson was named Bartender of the Year at the Tale of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans last year. There may be dozens of celebrity chefs, but there are perhaps 10 nationally recognized bartenders, and Stenson is one of them. New projects: Consulting for two yet-to-be-announced new ventures, both outside of Seattle. And, of course, bartending at Canon. canonseattle.com

18. Liz Dunn

Founder of Dunn and Hobbes

Est.: 1999. Because: The Microsoftie turned developer keeps character and style in her beautifully restored buildings, many of which house eateries. The firm she founded, Dunn and Hobbes (Hobbes is her dog), helped turn the Pike-Pine corridor into an indie foodie haven, most notably turning a former auto repair shop into the airy, gourmet metropolis that is Melrose Market. Dunn has more than style; she’s committed to local small-business owners, giving restaurateurs a hand up and a shot at her prime storefronts. New projects: Dunn took herself back to school, earning a master’s degree in city design at the London School of Economics while splitting her time between countries. She’s working on a new think tank for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the “Preservation Green Lab,” which finds ways to reuse existing buildings rather than knocking them down, in a manner that’s sustainable financially and for the environment. An event space at Melrose Market also opened in the fall. Employees: 4.
dunnandhobbes.com

17. Russell Horowitz, James Allard and Steve Rosen
Founders of Madison Holdings

Est.: 2003. Because: The three men founded the company that started the conveyor-belt sushi trend in Seattle with Blue C Sushi; there are now a half-dozen locations of Blue C. The company also owns Boom Noodle, the sleek ramen and noodle shops (three locations), which debuted in 2008. Though Allard and Rosen have moved on, Horowitz remains the chair of the board. New projects: The company plans to take the Blue C concept beyond Washington in the near future. Employees: 400.
boomnoodle.com; bluecsushi.com

16. Sur La Table
Est.: 1972, when it was founded by Shirley Collins. Because: The kitchenware store that started in Pike Place Market has grown to 92 stores nationwide in its 40 years in business. (It’s now owned by Bahrain-based bank Investcorp, but is headquartered in Georgetown.) New projects: A line of home cookware made by Belgian company Demeyere. Employees: 2,300.
surlatable.com

15. Matt Dillon
Chef/owner of Sitka & Spruce, Bar Ferd’nand and The Corson Building

Est.: 2006. Because: Dillon’s eateries epitomize modern Seattle eating in both style (sharable, vegetable driven, fastidiously seasonal, often kissed with wood smoke) and setting, especially in the new, airy digs in Melrose Market. If you think Seattle restaurants are all alike or boring, you haven’t been to one of Dillon’s lately. New projects: Along with a farm, where much of the food served at the restaurant is grown, Dillon and company are making their own rustic breads, croissants (there’s morning coffee service at Bar Ferd’nand), yogurt, pickled and preserved foods, and now, kombucha, too. But seriously, don’t miss those croissants. Employees: 34. sitkaandspruce.com

14. Kurt Dammeier
Founder, Sugar Mountain

Est.: 1999, when he bought Pasta & Co.; he also owns Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and the Maximus/Minimus food truck. Because: He puts his strong business sense and investments behind food that tastes good and is good for the planet—and he’s got a civic conscience, too. He’s a big booster of all Washington artisan cheeses, not just his own, and he donates 1 percent of sales to his nonprofit educational foundation. And you’ve gotta love a guy who hires an artist to build an “urban assault pig” food truck. (Even Oprah is in his club; his mac ’n’ cheese was on her all-time favorites list.) New projects: He recently opened an 8,000-square-foot Beecher’s in Manhattan. Watch for Maximus/Minimus sauces and seasonings on sale at local grocery stores. Employees: About 35.
sugarmtn.net

13. Dick Yoshimura
Owner, Mutual Fish

Est.: 1947. Because: He is the city’s most trusted fish purveyor. At 98 years old, Dick Yoshimura leads three generations (including son Harry and Harry’s son, Kevin), who’ve kept the fish perfectly fresh since the elder Yoshimura opened the Main Fish Company at 14th and Yesler in 1947. The business moved to Rainier Avenue and became Mutual Fish Company in 1965. Employees: 20.
mutualfish.com

12. Uwajimaya

Est.: 1946. Because: Sadako and Fujimatsu Moriguchi, who founded the store, and the three generations who currently own it have made it easy for our city to be international. Seattleites think it’s normal that we can buy durian fruit, gojuchang pepper paste, whole ducks and Vietnamese-style pâte à choux all under one roof, and Uwajimaya’s four locations are a big reason why. It has managed to expand dramatically while maintaining influence—it’s the place to go for Asian ingredients, in addition to being a fun field trip for a peek into other cultures. New projects: A Bellevue store opened in 2010. Next: refresh the Seattle flagship store and train the third generation to take over. Employees: About 420.
uwajimaya.com

11. Chris Curtis
Director of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance

Est.: 1993, when she founded the city’s first farmer/food-only farmers market, the University District Farmers Market. Because: Curtis brought the modern farmers market to Seattle, and her sharp eye, blunt honesty and unwavering support for the people who harvest has kept her alliance thriving through tough economic times and ever-changing public demands. The alliance currently operates seven markets, two of them year-round, with farmers representing 9,000 acres of actively cultivated land. New projects: A spring rhubarb festival, among dozens of other special events such as chef demos and a farmer-wide sale day. Employees: 110 farmers in 2011.
seattlefarmersmarkets.org

10. PCC Natural Markets

Est.: Member-owned since 1961. Because: Originally starting as a food-buying club, PCC has been pulling for farmers, providing a source for local and organic foods, and generally leading the green food movement in Seattle for more than 50 years. New projects: A second Green Lake store is coming in 2013; like the Redmond and Edmonds locations, it will be LEED certified. Employees: 900.
pccnaturalmarkets.com

9. Mark and Brian Canlis
Co-owners, Canlis

Est.: The restaurant was founded in 1950. Because: Instead of miring themselves in tradition, the brothers bumped Canlis firmly into the lineup of Seattle’s most relevant restaurants after taking the day-to-day reins from parents Chris and Alice, restaurant legends in their own right. Chef Jason Franey, whom they lured west from Manhattan, brilliantly juggles tradition and innovation. The bros won hearts for clever scavenger hunts and giveaways, and for their commitments to community and charity. Canlis’ wine team won its 15th consecutive Wine Spectator Grand Award in 2011. Kudos, too, to their parents, for handing over the keys and supporting their sons’ drive. New projects: The boys broke with tradition to drop their longtime Starbucks brews and install what’s been called one of the best indie coffee services in the country through Chicago-based roaster Intelligentsia. Employees: 80.
canlis.com

8. David Schomer
Founder and president, Vivace Espresso

Est.: 1988, when he opened the Capitol Hill cart. His first shop (now relocated) opened in 1992. Because: The granddaddy of Seattle’s espresso culture, David Schomer’s Vivace has reached beyond cult status; Vivace is iconic. The original roasteria was closed in 2008, but Vivace has since opened two espresso bars, in South Lake Union and on Capitol Hill. New projects: Vivace is now using brix meters to measure the sweetness in its shots of espresso:“Most double espressos in town measure between 4 and 7 units; our Vivace shot came in at 20.6 units in an independent study.” The baristas at Vivace are also using the Foam Knife, a radical new steam tip by Shojiro Saito of Japan that allows Vivace baristas to create a perfect foam texture for cappuccino. Employees: 49. espressovivace.com

7. Ethan Stowell
Chef, restaurateur

Est.: 2003. Because: The owner of four restaurants (How to Cook a Wolf, Tavolàta, Anchovies & Olives, and Staple & Fancy Mercantile—and the now-shuttered Union), Stowell is opening a second arm of his company called Grubb Brothers, specializing in more approachable eateries. He’s promised one each for fried chicken, burgers, pizza and fish and chips. New projects: The opening of Ballard Pizza Co., just up the street from Staple & Fancy, will be the first Grubb Brothers concept; opening is slated for this month. Employees: 80.
ethanstowellrestaurants.com

6. Mike McConnell
Restaurateur

Est.: 1995, when Caffe Vita opened. Because: As owner or part owner of Via Tribunali, Big Mario’s, Pike Street Fish Fry, Neumos, Cornuto Pizzeria, Seattle Boxing Studio, Hitchcock Restaurant, The Crocodile, and other restaurants, bars and coffee shops, he's played a major part in transforming neighborhoods (especially the Pike/Pine corridor), and his money finances so many of the businesses that we love. New projects: New Caffe Vita locations in Portland and Manhattan, and a Via Tribunali pizzeria opened in February in Manhattan. Caffe Vita is partnering with Rudy’s Barbershop, opening a coffee shop in Silver Lake, California, this spring. Employees: 500. caffevita.com; viatribunali.net

5. Charlie Billow and Ray Bowen
COO AND president, Charlie’s Produce

Est.: 1978. Because: As the largest independently owned produce wholesaler on the West Coast, Charlie’s has a hand in supplying more than 1,000 Seattle-area restaurants, hospitals, universities and other establishments. The company has also dedicated itself to providing more local, farm-fresh produce by creating a farm co-op division. New projects: A truck featuring locally grown produce, which will bring seasonal fruits and vegetables to restaurant clients in the Seattle area. Employees: 1,000+.
charliesproduce.com

4. Pike Place Market

Est.: 1907. Because: It’s the granddaddy of all farmers markets and a signature experience in our city; because it manages to stay iconic without becoming fossilized, as we saw when key tenant—since 1965—Pike Place Fish recently switched to a 100 percent sustainable catch. The Market also completed a major three-year infrastructure upgrade. Voters had approved a $69 million levy to improve earthquake safety, plumbing and other unsexy but much-needed improvements. New projects: Mt. Townsend Creamery, a favorite of cheese lovers around the nation, opened its first retail shop here last year. Watch for other new shops in new spaces created by the remodel. Employees: Around 2,400 in the summer, dropping to 1,500 in the winter.
pikeplacemarket.org

3. Jim Sinegal and Jeff Brotman
Costco founders

Est.: 1983. Because: The second-largest retailer in the U.S. (and the seventh largest in the world) is based right here in Washington state; the first Costco was Seattle’s Fourth Avenue store. Because of its size and reach—for better or for worse—Costco’s policies have a real effect on the world’s food supplies; in 2011, the company agreed to stop selling 12 species of fish for sustainability reasons. New projects: Costco spent millions to privatize liquor in Washington state; in the coming months, we’ll see how that affects customers and the fledgling distillery industry here. The company’s Asian presence is also expanding, with stores in Korea, Japan and Taiwan opening this year. Employees: 161,300.
costco.com

2. Howard Schultz
Starbucks CEO

Est.: 1982, when he was hired by Starbucks. Because: Love it or hate it, Starbucks changed the way we see our daily cuppa joe and brought coffee drinks to a wildly larger audience. New projects: Beating its old “Charbucks” nickname by introducing a new line of lighter-roast coffees. Trying out beer and wine in selected stores. Acquiring Evolution Fresh juices, hoping to do for juice what it’s done for the noble bean. Employees: 149,000 globally.
starbucks.com

1. Tom Douglas
Chef, restaurateur, author

Established: Opened Dahlia Lounge in 1989. Because: He’s opened six new restaurants (Seatown, Serious Pie Westlake, Serious Biscuit, Cuoco, Brave Horse Tavern, Ting Momo—phew!) in the last two years alone (he already owned six, including Dahlia, Etta’s and Palace Kitchen), and his projects anchored the redevelopment of South Lake Union. Douglas has had an enduring influence on how we eat for nearly 25 years, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. New projects: His fourth book, an as-yet-untitled Dahlia Bakery cookbook, is due in October.
Employees: 700.
tomdouglas.com

 

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