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

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.

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.

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.

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.;

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.