Here They Are: The Top 20 Most Talented People in Seattle

Our inaugural list of extremely talented locals, entirely chosen by readers
| Updated: August 24, 2016

In January, we asked our readers to nominate a talented Seattle-area individual--in any profession or medium--who they thought should make our inaugural list of the Top 20 Most Talented People in Seattle. That list (entirely selected by readers) is officially live. Who made the cut?

Below, you'll find 20 incredibly talented individuals whose work in everything from the arts to the laboratory to the kitchen is inspiring and bringing out the best in others. Congratulations are in order.

Anthony Peters

Tap dancer, owner of Tap Dance Seattle in Greenlake

What one reader had to say:
Anthony is a stunning tap dancer and teacher. I have taken tap from him both in classes and privately for over 12 years. He is a virtual encyclopedia of dance legends, techniques, and rhythms, He is my favorite and artistic choreographer and one of the most patient teacher/mentors I have ever known. He is an artist who cares deeply about his profession and about every single student at every level. He brings out the best in everyone and makes us super happy to be dancing. He has given a great amount of entertainment to the public over the years and, during the holidays, volunteers dancing joy to nursing homes and charitable organizations. He is immensely talented and has made a difference for the better in many lives. Watching him dance puts me in awe and makes me smile!

Olivier Wevers

Choreographer, former PNB principal dancer and artistic director of Whim W'him

Photo: Bamberg Fine Art

What one reader had to say: Incredible artistry as a dancer and choreographer. And as an artistic director of Whim W'Him!

C. Davida Ingram

Conceptual artist whose artwork focuses on storytelling. She uses social practice, performance art, and site specific installations in her work. Ingram is the 2014 Winner of the Stranger Genius Award

What one reader had to say: Her intellect, her social practice and her grace.

Richard Gray

Local composer and actor who has performed at many theaters around town including ACT and 5th Avenue. Recent credits include roles in The Assassins, The Music Man, Carousel, Spamalot and A Room with a View.

Gray as Charles Guiteau in
The Assassins, running February 27 to May 8 at the 5th Avenue Theatre; Photo by Mark Kitaoka

What one reader had to say: He's a talented composer, actor and all-around entertainer. A true Seattle favorite.

Alexandra Charneski

Co-owner at The Novel Tree, a recreational marijuana retailer in Bellevue

What one reader had to say:
She is the rookie of the year in business start-up talent. In November 2013, she opened [recreational marijuana retail shop] The Novel Tree in Bellevue. Her store won two industry awards in 2015 [from Dope magazine]: Best Store Atmosphere and Best Edible Selection. Allie is a true business rockstar, and definitely one of the most talented people in Seattle.



Cindee Khabani, BS, ELD

Laboratory director at Pacific Northwest Fertility
What one reader had to say: She has helped countless people become parents and build a family and all behind the scenes. Rarely is she able to reap the glory and gratitude from people she has helped instead she works quietly behind closed, air pressure controlled doors with the knowledge of how important her work is. She is great inside and out!

Maximillian Petty

Executive chef and owner at Eden Hill restaurant in Queen Anne

What one reader had to say: Maximillian is pushing the boundaries of culinary arts at his Seattle restaurant Eden Hill. A true talent!

Ben Schuyler

Photographer whose inspiration relies on his surroundings: people, dirt roads, flora and fauna

What one reader had to say:
Ben is an immensely talented photographer who has become extremely popular in the Instagram community. Along with a fellow photographer, he completed a cross-country photography trip called When The Road Is Home, that was all about telling the stories of those who make their lives on the road. This trip was fully funded on Kickstarter, a testament to the level of support behind Ben and his personal brand.

Anu Elford

Owner of Belltown bars Rob Royand its two sibling spots No Anchor and Navy Strength, which are slated to open this summer
What one reader had to say:
Not only did Anu Elford (née Apte) open the cocktail-alicious Rob Roy in fall of 2009, one of the top bars in the country according to Esquire, but she also opened SwigWell, a drinking academy and teaching resource, in 2011, providing her expertise for pro and home bartenders. Plus, she’s been crafting drinks for Centerplate Hospitality since 2012, including drinks for Edgar's Cantina and the Terrace Club Level at Safeco Field and other stadiums, and is opening two new bars with new husband Chris Elford this summer. Through it all, she’s delivered an amazing range of top-notch cocktails – she’s a true bar talent!

John Keatley

Photographer whose work has appeared in Wired, Rolling Store and The New York Times

Photo by Oliver Ludlow
What one reader had to say:
He continuously puts out fantastic photographic work that can be seen all over Seattle, from magazines to billboards.

Monique Ming Laven

KIRO 7 evening anchor and reporterwho recently launched the #SeattleAntiFreeze project, which highlights the different ways people in the community reach out to one another.

What one reader had to say: She's the most talented television journalist in this market and provides unique and thoughtful content on social media. Check out her #SeattleAntiFreeze stories on Facebook.

Julia Fryett

Cultural entrepreneur and founder of nonprofit organization Aktionsart and the international art, film and technology festival Black Box Festival

Julia Fryett directs Aktionsart, which produces projects that combine art and tech. Photo by Hayley Young

What one reader had to say: I was really impressed with the article about her [in the January 2016 issue] in your magazine, focusing on how she is building invaluable bridges between the arts and tech communities.

Sarah Carter

Group sales manager at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel
Courtesy of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel

What one reader had to say: She's an outstanding meeting professional who has not only been working at the Fairmont Olympic, where she is the lead and go to for all of her top clients to ensure their meeting and group experience is nothing short of a huge success, but she's also on the board of directors for the Washington State Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, where she oversees the special events and conferences. She was also the Washington State Chair for the Cascadia Educational Conference (CEC) held in Washington in 2015.

Ian Roberts

Co-owner at the Pine Box on Capitol Hill, organizer of the annual Cider Summit in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Chicago, and co-founder of Seattle Beer Week

What one reader had to say: Ian advocates for craft beer and consistently curates the best tap list in the entire city. He also helps out running the Seattle Cider Summit every September here in Seattle, bringing more cider to this fine city.

Gordon Naccarato

Chef/owner and vice president of Tacoma-based Naccarato Restaurant Group, which owns the Pacific Grill Restaurant, Pacific Grill Events & Catering, and Classics by Pacific Grill at the LeMay-America's Car Museum

Photo courtesy of Pacific Grill
What one reader had to say:
Chef Gordon is a great chef and Tacoma kid. Named to Food and Wine's hot chefs list almost 20 years ago. He keeps innovating. His restaurants are perfect mix of upscale food in a relaxed atmosphere.

Russell Wilson

Quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks

Wilson in 2014; Photo by Gregobagel

What one reader had to say:
He's helped take our team to two consecutive Super Bowls and was victorious in one. He gives back off the field, too, with his weekly visits to the Seattle Children's Hospital. We're lucky to have such a talented leader and stellar person at the helm of our football team.

Linda Waterfall

Folk musician and singer-songwriter who released her 14th album--entitled Hometown Girl--in 2015.

Photo by Marc Hoffman/

What one reader had to say: Linda is truly a Seattle green eco type from a groovy era, but she's a fun performer, even better player, and masterful composer of tunes that range from silly to somber art to soul-replenishment. She deserves accolades!

Valerie Curtis-Newton

Head of performance, acting and directing at the University of Washington School of Drama; artistic director for The Hansberry Project, a professional African-American theater lab

What one reader had to say: She's been creating amazing theater in the Seattle area and beyond for years, in addition to helping mold future Seattle theater artists.

Michael Meade

Founder of the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a West Seattle-based nonprofit network of artists, activists, and community builders that encourages greater understanding between diverse peoples
What one reader had to say: He offers profound brilliant insight into what it is to be human with a hipness that reaches homeless kids on the street and a sincerity of depth that makes him a confidant to those with celebrity. He is a storyteller and mythologist whose timeless stories help us make sense of our selves and our world.

Kelly Kitchens

Associate Artistic Director at the Seattle Public Theater

What one reader had to say: She's one of Seattle's most phenomenal actors, and is now one of the city's up-and-coming directors!

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