Seattle's Food Establishment: Inaugural List

Seattle magazine's inaugural list of the 70 most powerful players in the Seattle food scene.
seattle magazine's food establishment list

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.

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.

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.

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.;

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.