We knew that Seattle was bursting at the seams with young talent. We just didn't know how amazing the scene has become. For the first time ever, we're profiling the best food industry pros under 30. From twin sister pretzel-makers to a second-generation oenologist who made his first wine as a teenager, these young guns will have your jaws dropping. Read on to get the scoop about these 30 rising stars.
-Story by Jackie Varriano, Photos by Amber Fouts
Rose Allred, 25Butcher/Farmer, Sea Breeze Farm
Five years ago Allred met George Page, owner of the idyllic pasture-focused Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon Island, and decided to quit school for a life of food and farming. She compares her choice to boot camp after starting as a cheese apprentice before moving to butchery and eventually managing the farm’s restaurant, La Boucherie. Today you can catch her doing everything from milking cows and washing dishes, to working farmers markets and breaking down whole pigs. Allred says the land is up next, as she'd like to help raise cows, pigs, chickens and ducks.
Jay Blackinton, 28Chef/Co-Owner, Hogstone’s Wood Oven
When Blackinton opened Hogstone’s in 2013, his goal was to have the first restaurant in modern times where the farmers also cooked the food. This meant harvesting, preparing and even using paper plates for speedy service. Things have evolved, of course – there are now gorgeous dishes made by Orcas artisans and some of the food comes from neighboring farms and fisheries. Still, whether growing his own wheat for pizza dough or expanding on his ever-expanding knowledge of wild flowers and plants, Blackinton never stops reaching for more.
Norman Matthew Broussard, 23Line Cook, Palace Kitchen
This Texas native wanted to move to Seattle so badly he had a senator write a letter to restaurateur Tom Douglas extolling his virtues. The bold move paid off, although he already had the chops to back up his claims. A graduate of Austin’s Le Cordon Bleu, Broussard cooked his way around Austin, San Antonio and South Padre Island by the time he landed at Palace Kitchen. Since moving to Seattle in 2014, the line cook had hosted nearly 40 pop-up events and dreams to one day open his own multimedia kitchen studio, melding his love for cooking with video.
Nick Davis, 28Creative Director, Medium Plus
This former jazz student went from hosting cocktail pop-ups in his college apartment to Level II sommelier at Canlis in less than four years. A former Eagle Scout, he claims that it was the sommelier pin that first caught his eye, but a real curiosity propelled him to start Medium Plus, a beverage consulting and events company last year. He’s the call to make for help with fun, boozy events or if you’re looking to take your wine knowledge to the next level. His latest project? The Medium Plus Handbook: Savvy Wine Studies (check out his Kickstarter here).
Kevin Davis, 26Chef de Cuisine, Orfeo
Davis started at his uncle’s bar and grill on Lake Erie when he was just 14-years old. What began as bussing turned into running the line in three short years, and sparked a lifelong passion for food and an innate ability to improvise. At charcoal grill-fueled and Italian-inspired Orfeo, Davis hunts his walk-in for unlikely gems and makes them work – a skill he takes outside the restaurant, spending his free time foraging for mushrooms and berries, and brewing beer and wine.
Drew Fitchette, 26Sales Representative, Stumptown Coffee Roasters
For much of his early twenties, you were as apt to find Fitchette scoping green beans as you were playing bass with locals Valley Maker and Detlef. Even now, when he’s not cupping with Stumptown’s head roasters, Fitchette works as a go-between, filling the gap between production and sales. “My focus is on improving the quality of our wholesale partners," he says. "I wanted to be a part of a company that can put their thumbprint on how the world does coffee.”
Cameron George, 26Bar Manager, Barrio Mexican Kitchen & Bar
From his razor sharp fashion sense to his penchant for pranks, George lives up to his role as the Social Chair for the Washington branch of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. George is usually the life of the party, and since becoming the bar manager at Barrio Mexican Kitchen & Bar in 2015, he’s beefed up the rum, pisco, cachaça and even amaro offerings, focusing on diverse flavors and translating his love for spirits into staff education. “I’m teaching them to make someone’s experience, not just someone’s cocktail," he says. "Someone can ride a great experience high for a week. A drink is gone in 10 minutes.”
Charlotte Glaves, 29Roving Sous Chef, The Derschang Group
This quick-witted, pinch hitter polished her skills in the corporate world, working all over the kitchen at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum and Motif in Seattle. It’s exactly why she was brought into The Derschang Group as roving sous chef last year, filling in on the line, plowing through prep lists and brainstorming menu ideas at Tallulah’s, Smith and Oddfellows. “I don’t like to stick to one thing so this is perfect for me – keeping excitement, bright ideas and versatility, it’s really cool."
Clare Gordon, 25Pastry Chef, General Porpoise, Bar Melusine, Bateau
Raised in her parent’s iconic Portland deli Kenny & Zuke’s, Gordon took a year off to work in kitchens across Europe. After honing her skills at Portland’s Ava Genes and Roman Candle Baking Co., she moved to Seattle in 2013 to work at Aragona and Mamnoon before landing at Renee Erickson’s General Porpoise in Capital Hill, churning out perfect fluffy donuts and desserts at the European-focused Bar Melusine and Bateau. Her philosophy is focused around simplicity and quality: “At its very core, food should be satisfying and really good.”
McKenzie Hart, 28Chef/Co-Owner, Peloton Cafe
Truth be told, Hart wasn’t ready to own her own restaurant until her business partners came through with a new lease – it was now or never. She handed her notice to Matt Dillon after five years at Sitka & Spruce and The London Plane and struck out to create a menu at Peloton that challenges the idea of what one expects at a bike shop cafe. She’s challenging her guests with everything from big brisket sandwiches to grab-and-go granola bars. “I personally go through many phases of hunger and cravings and I want to provide a dish for every mood,” she says.
Haley Holman, 26Bartender, Canon
After training to become a professional ballet dancer as a child, Holman quit at the age of 18 and earned a degree in French, landed a job as a hostess and eventually fell deep into the world of mixology. Now at Canon, the 2016 Seattle Speed Rack champion taps into her creative, artistic side as well as her disciplined structured side to come up with creative flavor combinations, relying on Canon’s 3,500 different spirits labels to keep her en pointe.
Keaton Hunter, 26Sous Chef, Cascina Spinasse
While attending college at Chico State, Hunter realized he was spending more time looking at food on his phone than paying attention in class. He quit school and got his first restaurant job at Russian River Brewing, landing at Diavola in Geyserville before moving to Seattle in 2014 and scoring a position at the Northern Italian-focused scratch kitchen at Cascina Spinasse. In January, he was named sous chef, a surprising decision, but one he attributes to his passion for Piedmontese cuisine and pasta at large. “I just love what I do, and I want it done right," he says. "If it’s not done with the utmost precision, it’s just noodles on a plate.”
Megan Janes, 26Owner, Seattle Pops
While working at an insurance agency in Birmingham, AL., Megan Janes had a popsicle epiphany. One lick at local favorite, Steel City Pops, brought back memories of the pure and simple joy she experienced as a kid and set in motion what would become Seattle Pops. She moved back to Seattle, worked on a business plan and a line of all-natural fruit- or cream-based treats. Now, she and her summer staff of five make and sell thousands of popsicles each week in 13 markets, via wholesale accounts and private events.
Andrew Januik, 28Winemaker, Novelty Hill Januik and Andrew Januik Wines
His first job was putting boxes together for the 1999 Januik Chardonnay, the first wine produced by his parent's winery. By 15 he made his first rosé, and although he left the winery to attend UW (earning a degree in Spanish and Portuguese studies), he missed working in his Woodinville lab. Now he’s back to blending and celebrating the release of the third vintage of his Red Mountain Stone Cairn Cabernet and the inaugural vintage of his Lady Hawk Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet. What’s next? Andrew is working on partnerships with wineries around the globe to create South American or South African Januik-branded wines.
Mi Kim, 27Head Pastry Chef, Macrina Bakery
Kim wanted to be a baker since high school, practicing while binge watching the Food Network. After graduating from Portland’s Western Culinary Institute, she got an externship with Macrina Bakery and never looked back. Named to the management staff at 19, Kim settled into the position they created for her, finding her creativity one ingredient at a time. Over the past nine years her obsessions with Nutella, buckwheat and even marshmallow have yielded delicious, surprising results. “I’m all about texture. Anything crunchy, soft and smooth is perfect, and I love stepping it up a notch.”
Justin Legaspi, 27Sous Chef, Bateau
Many chefs would jump at the chance to work for Seattle’s Renee Erickson. However, when Legaspi got a call from chef de cuisine Taylor Thornhill to come onboard at the steakhouse Bateau, he admitted he had never eaten at an Erickson restaurant. Even though he had worked briefly with Thornhill at Harvest Vine and the short-lived Aragona, this call meant a chance to fulfill his career-long goal to work with Thornhill and step into his first management role. His passion at Bateau lies in creating the strongest cook foundation he can. “I want everyone to feel like we’re all in this together, no egos," he says "It takes teamwork to make the dream work.”
Jessica Lewis and Amanda Sue Lewis, Both 26Owners, Anchor End Pretzel Shoppe
The Lewis twins have been cooking together since the age of 10, so it’s no surprise that they decided to open a pretzel-sandwich concept. It wasn’t just financial hurdles that kept them from opening a brick-and-mortar shop — it was love at first sight when they found the vintage Shasta trailer that would eventually house Anchor End. With made-from-scratch creations like the Dictator, stuffed with fried pork belly and pickled jalapenos on a cinnamon-sugar pretzel, they’ve been successful enough to start thinking about a second truck and an eventual commercial kitchen. But first, they have to make it through the summer festival season.
Ingrid Lyublinsky, 26General Manager, Saint Helens Cafe
Originally trained as an actor at the University of Illinois and Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, Lyublinsky first started in the industry as a bartender and server, but it wasn’t until she scored a maître d’position at Nico Osteria that she fully realized her love for the service industry. After a stint at Alinea, she was wooed by the Huxley Wallace Collective and moved to Seattle to manage Saint Helens Cafe. She now works to inspire her staff to find their passion within the industry, and creative ways to give guests the best possible dining experience.
Shannon Martincic and Rachel Hall, 23 and 27Chef de Cuisine and Sous Chef, Bar Noroeste
Despite both having Star Trek tattoos, this dynamic duo couldn’t be more different. Martincic is the kinetic ball of energy, Hall the analytic problem-solver — together they’ve created one of Seattle’s hottest taquerias. Martincic draws from her CIA background and time spent in Chilean kitchens, while Hall whips up at least three new hot sauce flavors per week. They also work to make sure their menu focuses on the region’s best ingredients, meaning lamb from local islands and guacamole made from eggplant.
Shota Nakajima, 26Chef/Owner, Naka
Nakajima spent the first three months of his job at Sakamoto in Osaka scrubbing his chef’s shoes and sorting rice, an experience he says helped him learn patience and perfection. After spending five years in Japan — and graduating from the Tsuji Culinary Arts Institute — he came back to Seattle to open Naka. And though he’s retained much of that discipline, it’s not uncommon to hear him singing “Hakuna Matata” in the kitchen. As for his seasonal kaiseki menu, “It doesn’t matter if 999 people don’t get it; it’s that one person that gets it. Cooking with that mentality is the only way you get better.”
Josh Nebe, 29Line Cook/Sausage Master, Radiator Whiskey
A telling early photo of Nebe depicts the eight-year-old frosting cupcakes and proudly wearing a chef's coat and hat. Cooking has been a lifelong goal, ever since his dad sent him CIA textbooks as a kid. In addition to crafting Seattle’s best hot dog, made from scratch with pork butchered and brined in-house, Nebe also calls upon his German roots with his occasional Germanic pop-up Dackel and spends his weekends hammering out hand-crafted silver jewelry.
Thomas Rotherham, 29Sommelier, Goldfinch Tavern
From his first sip of wine at age 24 (a Belle Glos Pinot Noir), Rotherham knew he wanted to be a sommelier. He’s worked in the industry since the age of 15, but it wasn’t until he was in his early 20s that he understood the culture of wine. Now at the glitzy Goldfinch, which opened in the Four Seasons June of 2015, Rotherham is constantly tweaking what he calls his “baby,” the extensive wine list reflecting his palate. “People look to your list see how much trust they can have in you,” he says. Rotherham relishes the chance to do blind tastings with staff and guests, furthering their knowledge as well as his own.
Gina Rudisill, 28Cheesemonger, Calf & Kid/Culture Club
The only thing Rudisill knew about cheese when she started at Calf & Kid – a tiny counter inside Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market – was that she loved it, and she wanted to learn more. Three years later, the cheesemonger/marine biology student uses her science background to enhance her knowledge of cheese and keep customers fascinated. “I really like seeing people light up when they find a cheese they’ve never liked before.”
Sarah Scott, 28Executive Chef, El Gaucho Bellevue
Being the head of the kitchen in a male-dominated steakhouse environment wasn’t a challenge for Scott, it was a goal. This avid gamer kept her eye on the prize, achieving her goal of becoming El Gaucho’s youngest executive chef so she could “have the power to change whatever I want” at age 27. Never content to rest on her laurels, this Florida native is turning her focus to learning everything she can about global flavors and how to adapt them to fit the scope of a Pacific Northwest steakhouse like El Gaucho. First on her list: Japan.
Willi Sheller, 26Bartender, Suite 410 and Smith
Sheller first moved to Seattle as a modern dancer, but after discovering Slate Coffee Roasters, he realized he couldn’t sleep until he learned everything he could about the world of java. It was that same curiosity that led him to bartending, soaking up everything he could about spirits and how they the work. Dance was the first to go before he gave up making coffee professionally in 2013. He now brings his intense enthusiasm for cocktails and innate grace to the stage he creates behind the bar as a roving bartender at The Derschang Group’s Smith and South Lake Union’s classy cocktail lounge, Suite 410.
Chris Smith, 27Sous Chef, Barking Frog
Starting to cook at 10-years old, Smith decided to be a chef in his early teens and graduated culinary school when he was 16. It’s this singular focus that has helped him during the past three years at Woodinville’s Barking Frog, where he started as a line cook. By consistently challenging what it means to serve Pacific Northwest cuisine (like translating a traditional Balinese dish to include local ingredients) he made sous in two and currently has his sights set on the chef de cuisine title. He never settles at good; everything he puts on a plate has to be his very best. “I’m always pushing boundaries and limits.”
C. Keith Villanueva, 27Lead Bartender, Sazerac at Hotel Monaco
This French and literature major takes a cerebral approach when it comes to describing how he crafts his perfect drink. Although he spends much of his free time reading and playing his guitar, what really drives his passion is the story behind the spirit – learning about distillation processes and how to take any sort of flavor and put it into liquid form. The Hotel Monaco is looking to reinvent the Southern-focused Sazerac over the coming year, and guests can look to the soft-spoken Villanueva to build a strong bar program with cocktails representing himself and each of his bartenders' personalities.
Chris Weber, 29Chef/Director, The Herbfarm
Weber received the French Laundry cookbook as a birthday gift when he was 18 and it changed his life. He realized that if he was going to become a cook, he wanted to do it right. It’s why his office is filled with notebooks detailing menu ideas, recipes and ingredients by season and everything he’s served at his weekly theme dinners over the past nine years at Woodinville’s Herbfarm. “Doesn’t have anything to do with press – it’s all about trying to be better at what you do,” he says. When he’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find Weber working at the restaurant’s five-acre farm, tending to the food that eventually ends up on Herbfarm plates.
Shattuck Wildaner, 26Lead Server/Bartender, Altura/Herb & Bitter
Whether it's behind the bar or at your table, Wildaner is the man to quiz about cooking techniques, obscure liqueurs and ingredients. He’s a guy who practiced secretly at home in order to begin making cocktails the day he turned 21, reading books on bartending and falling in love with the polarizing flavors of amaro. He now has near encyclopedic knowledge, which he hopes to use to make spirits or bitters of his own one day. At the swanky tasting menu-focused Altura he’s just as focused, able to reel off a carefully worded spiel detailing complicated preparations at the drop of a hat.
Kyle Wisner, 26Co-Kitchen Manager, The London Plane
Wisner has been with The London Plane since it first opened in 2013, shaping the Pioneer Square eatery as the place to go for seasonal Pacific Northwest cuisine crafted with style and precision; from the sourdough bread and its hazelnut butter toast down to the whey he uses to braise lamb. As one of two kitchen managers, Wisner focuses on the food experience, writing the menu, testing recipes and making dishes like perfectly cooked black beans and pork shoulder look effortless. “I gravitate toward simple, approachable food because it connects people,” he says. He hopes to take his approach and teach through public classes held in the sunny kitchen.