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

70. David Holcomb
Founder and CEO, Chef’n

Est.: 1982. Because: From garlic crushers to extra-powerful juicers, the company Holcomb founded in 1982 has developed ingenious, smartly designed products that make cooking easier. The company has won a slew of industry design awards, including one in 2010 for its “PalmZester,” which neatly collects and stores rinds as you zest them. New projects: The company partnered with a private equity firm, CID Capital, and expects to expand dramatically over the next five years, both in the U.S. and around the globe. Employees: 26.

69. Gary and Nancy Figgins
Founders and owners, Leonetti Cellars

Est.: 1977. Because: The first winery in Walla Walla—named for Gary’s grandparents—has been thriving for 35 years, making acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that have been ranked among the best in the world, and sparking Washington’s boutique wine boom. New projects: Chris Figgins, Gary and Nancy’s son and now the company’s president and winemaking director, launched a separate winery and released an estate-grown, red Bordeaux blend under the Figgins label last year. The family also started Lostine Cattle Company last year, raising Scottish Highland cattle on certified organic pasture. Employees: 25.

68. Kent Bakke
CEO, La Marzocco international

Est.: 1994. Because: Bakke is one of the reasons Seattle is known as a coffee mecca. On a 1978 trip to Italy, he became enamored with espresso and the coffee culture, and 16 years later formed a company to import high-end La Marzocco machines to the U.S. Bakke is a coffee evangelist, continuing to push innovations in the espresso world. He also helped bring fabulous chocolate to the U.S. as a former investor in Claudio Corallo, producer of some spectacularly intense chocolate. New projects: Baristas nationwide are lusting after La Marzocco’s new $13,000–$24,000 Strada machines, which allow them vastly more control over shots. Employees: 20 in the U.S., 50 in Italy.

67. Dick Cantwell
Head brewer, cofounder and co-owner, Elysian Brewing Company

Est.: 1996. Because: He’s one the country’s most respected brewers, especially for his innovative brews like Avatar Jasmine IPA and Rosemary’s Baby IPA. New projects: A new production brewery in Georgetown will allow the company to brew 65,000 barrels this year. (Cantwell says they expect to see 200 percent growth this year alone.) Employees: 200.

66. Smith Brothers Farms
Founded by Benjamin Smith in 1920. Because: For 90 years, Kent-based Smith Brothers has delivered fresh milk from local cows; the company currently delivers to 40,000 households. New projects: Along with dairy products, the company also delivers an expanding selection of local products, including Erin Baker’s cookies (based in Bellingham), Cougar Mountain cookie dough and Vashon Island Roasterie coffee. Employees: 115.

65. Geoff Forcum, Kimi Galasso, Christopher Galasso and Keith Swanson

Founders and co-owners of Blue Valley Meats

Est.: 2011. Because: When Thundering Hooves went out of business last year, it was Forcum and Christopher and Kimi Galasso who bought up the existing inventory and opened Walla Walla–based Blue Valley Meats to fill the growing demand for grass-fed beef. The group buys meat from a very select group of ranchers near Walla Walla, and sells directly to customers all around the state. The neighborhood buying clubs—similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA) delivery—that Thundering Hooves established are going strong; there are 20 in Seattle alone. New projects: “We’re looking to expand our poultry production this year,” says butcher and co-founder Christopher Galasso. They’re also expanding their facility, and partnering with local wineries for events and charities. Employees: 6.

64. Jon Rowley
Branding and marketing expert, food consultant

Est.: 1981. Because: You’ve heard of Copper River salmon, kumamoto oysters and Shuksan strawberries? That’s largely because of Jon Rowley, who began as a consultant to Ray’s Boathouse and McCormick’s Fish House and, for three decades, has exalted local foods and restaurants to a national audience. He’s worked with Restaurants Unlimited, Anthony’s Restaurants, The Brooklyn, Elliott’s Oyster House and others. His latest projects include working with Taylor Shellfish Farms to open the new Melrose Market store as well as promoting its oysters via a midnight, low-tide oyster bus. New projects: Rowley is developing a new crab-cracking tool; he teaches classes on the craft at the Taylor Shellfish store in Melrose Market.

63. Lisa Dupar
Chief creative officer, Lisa Dupar Catering

Est.: 1985, when she started her catering company; Pomegranate Bistro opened in 2005. Because: The noted caterer is a crowd pleaser, updating Southern style with Northwest ingredients at both events and at her restaurant. Her lovely first cookbook, Fried Chicken & Champagne, won a major national award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, unusual for a self-published title. New projects: A second cookbook, a new bar connected to Pomegranate, and a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, where she spent childhood summers. Employees: 150.

62. Bill Marler
Food-borne illness lawyer at Marler Clark

Est.: 1993, when he successfully sued Jack in the Box over an E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 500 people in Seattle. Because: As the country’s leading food-safety litigator, working with people infected with E. coli, salmonella and other food-contamination illnesses, Marler has done much to bring food safety issues to the forefront. New projects: Marler played a part in getting the Food Safety Modernization Act passed in 2010; the act aims to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks rather than react to them once they’ve already occurred. It’s the first piece of food legislation passed in 80 years.

61. Gwenyth Bassetti
Owner, Grand Central Bakery

Est.: 1989 (after a 1972 venture called The Bakery). Because: Bassetti pioneered Seattle’s booming Italian-style, hand-formed artisan bread scene. When you tear into a crusty loaf instead of a soft roll, send her a silent “thanks.” The breads are still delicious and made from scratch, with a bakery that supplies scores of restaurants and grocery stores, and three neighborhood bakery/cafes. New projects: Remodeling the production bakery on E Marginal Way S, including installing a 40,000-pound Italian hearth oven. A new, afternoon baking cycle will make for even fresher breads. And watch for new specialty seasonal loaves using locally grown and milled grains. Employees: 100.