The Seattle Food Establishment: Second Annual List

The 50 most powerful players in Seattle's food scene, plus one to watch.

40. Maria Hines
Chef/owner at Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce
2006, with Tilth
Place on list last year: Not ranked

Because: This telegenic dynamo continues to travel the globe, searching for inspiration to fuel her restaurant expansion mode. Last fall, she explored Sicily before launching her new Italian spot, Agrodolce, in the space that was once 35th Street Bistro. Her quest to keep it hyperlocal led her to milling flour in-house for the handmade pasta. New projects: She plans to continue working closely with local farms, sharpening the focus on showcasing sustainable ingredients in her kitchens. Employees: 90;

39. Brian McCracken and Dana Tough
Chef/owners of Spur, Tavern Law, Coterie Room
2008, with Spur
Place on list last year: No. 42

Because: This pair is committed to creating something that complements each neighborhood in which they set up shop, in addition to showing their support for those micro communities as boosters at fundraisers. New projects: The Old Sage, a charcuterie-driven watering hole, opens on Capitol Hill this spring. Employees: 72;

38. Ron Post and Ilyse Rathet
Owners of Ritrovo
Place on list last year: No. 54

Because: Thanks to this well-traveled couple, fans of Italian specialty foods have plenty of reasons to cheer. The more than 130 discoveries in their catalog of imported and domestic products that make our lives more delicious include carnaroli rice—the best for risotto, according to Cafe Juanita’s Holly Smith—and a top-secret artisanal Italian flour, favored by Il Corvo’s chef Michael Easton for his magical pasta. They recently introduced a white balsamic drinking vinegar and are collaborating with Canadian chocolatier Hagensborg, supplying their truffle and salted almonds for a savory sweet called the Wild Boar Bar. Bravo! New projects: Ritrovo is collaborating with Miller Farms in California on a sustainable almond blossom honey in its almond groves, which will eventually be available in limited supply at retailers that carry Ritrovo products, including Metropolitan Market and DeLaurenti. Employees: 7;

37. Jim Sinegal and Jeff Brotman
Founders of Costco
Place on list last year: No. 3

Because: There’s no arguing about Costco’s impact both locally and globally on what we eat and, more recently, on where and how much we pay for what we drink. With last year’s passing of Initiative 1183, which allows private liquor sales (and a cause in which Costco invested nearly $21 million), state liquor drinkers saw prices with tax soar, in some cases as much as 30 percent. New projects: Several new locations in Japan, Mexico, the U.S. and Europe. And in fall 2012, a return to selling fine art on its website, which has included original works by Chagall and Warhol. Employees: 174,000;

36. Ron Cohn
Owner, Consolidated Restaurants
Place on list last year: No. 43

Because: The family-owned restaurant group runs Seattle’s most iconic steakhouse, The Metropolitan Grill, and the best oyster house around, Elliott’s. It also operates several Wing Domes and Steamers Seafood Cafes. New projects: Cafe 56 on Pier 56 (the same pier as Elliott’s), which opened last year, is Seattle’s first outdoor oyster bar. Dungeness and king crab (at Elliott’s), clam chowder and seasonal seafood are also available to go. Employees: 296;

35. The Pike Place Fish Guys (Jaison Scott; Dick, John and Ryan Yokoyama; Ryan Rector; Taho Kakutani; Chris Bell; Jake Jardine; Anders Miller; Ryan Reese; Sam Samson; Charlie Trimarco; Yori Oyloe; Erik Espinoza; and Justin Hall)
Place on list last year: Not ranked

Because: Not only do the men in orange move a whole lot of seafood at this tourist attraction—yes, much of the 1.5 million pounds sold annually is thrown as shutters click—but they’ve got a new cookbook, In the Kitchen with the Pike Place Fish Guys (written with Leslie Miller; Viking Studio), that serves up 100 recipes, shopping and prepping tips, and fleshes out their own fish stories. Let’s give the fish-tossing crew a standing ovation for going fully sustainable in 2011. New projects: Look for the saucy characters featured in the cookbook to show up on the TV demo circuit. After all, they’ve got loads of experience in front of cameras. Employees: 15;

Place on the list last year: Not ranked

Because: This reader-driven website, founded by then- University of Washington grad students (Tim Hunt, Carl Lipo, Mark Madsen, Michael Pfeffer, David Quinn and Dan Shepherd) and now owned by publishing giant Meredith, calls itself the world’s largest online food community, drawing, on average, more than 30 million visits each month. Phew! That’s a whole lot of sharing. New projects: Continued expansion of the catalog of cooking videos. Employees: More than 200;

33. Murray Stenson
Bartender extraordinaire
Began bartending in 1976
Place on list last year: No. 19

Because: In Seattle, Murr the Blur has iconic status, but he’s nationally renowned, too. Stenson made Zig Zag Café a cocktail destination and helped establish Canon as one of the best bars in Seattle. And it turns out that all the adoration Seattle bar patrons have expressed for years wasn’t just lip service: When news hit last fall that Stenson had a heart condition requiring surgery, but that he had no health insurance, benefit events from Seattle to Australia raised more than $200,000. New projects: Recovery. And his eventual return to bartending.

32. Jerry Traunfeld
Chef/owner, Poppy
Place on list last year: No. 28

Because: While many of Seattle’s other big-name chefs are opening restaurants so quickly it’s hard to keep up, Traunfeld focuses instead on keeping the quality at Poppy as high—nay, higher—than it’s ever been. His menus are especially thoughtful, and his way with vegetables is endlessly inspired. Cocktails—made with curry leaves and saffron, or hand-plucked herbs from the garden out back—double as tropical elixirs. But perhaps best of all: There’s a happy quality to the place. New projects: Nothing concrete, although Traunfeld is planning an eating trip through China in the fall. Dare we dream of what Traunfeld’s take on dim sum would taste like? Employees: 34;

31. Charles and Rose Ann Finkel
Owners, The Pike Brewing Company
Place on list last year: No. 47

Because: The couple who founded the craft brewing movement in Seattle, and mentored countless brewers around the country and the world, continue to prove they know how to make really, really good beer. Last year, Pike XXXXX Extra Stout was awarded a silver by the World Beer Championship. And the Pike Space Needle Golden IPA, originally crafted as a commemorative beer for the 50th anniversary of the Space Needle, is now on tap year-round. New projects: Pike Olympic Honeymoon Suite, made with honey from bees kept on the Fairmont Olympic Hotel rooftop; collaborative brews made with Tom Douglas staffers for the Brave Horse Tavern; and a new and improved menu at the pub. Employees: 80;