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

30. Jim Drohman
Executive chef and co-owner, Le Pichet and Café Presse

Est.: 2000. Because: Before partnering with Joanne Herron to open Le Pichet, Drohman was the celebrated chef at then-marvelous Campagne. He now heads two quietly outstanding and sophisticated French restaurants, which he thankfully keeps open from the earliest morning hours until well after dark. On a personal front, Drohman spent most of 2011 battling lymphoma; he is now in total remission. New projects: Earlier this year, Café Presse began hosting Corner Table fixed-price 3-course dinners (approx. $23; $38 with wine), held once per quarter. Employees: About 70.;

29. Mark and Michael Klebeck and Joel Radin
Owners, Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts

Est.: 2002. Because: Downright delicious doughnuts served up with a sleek sense of style. When the president of the United States stops at your cafe for a doughnut break (as Barack Obama did in 2010), you’re already doing pretty well. But carb kings Mark and Michael Klebeck, along with partner Joel Radin, also broke into grocery stores in a major way when they started supplying doughnuts and joe to 68 QFC markets in Oregon and Washington. New projects: Watch for more doughnuts on the go as the brothers expand their fleet of mobile Airstream units; fry ’em up at home with the new Top Pot cookbook cowritten by Jess Thomson. Employees: 110.

28. Jerry Traunfeld
Chef/owner, Poppy

Est.: 2008. Because: The longtime Herbfarm chef (many credit Traunfeld for the Herbfarm’s national renown), James Beard award winner and mentor to legions of Seattle chefs struck out on his own with an unusual concept—Indian-influenced thalis—in an unlikely locale at the then-scruffy northern edge of Broadway. In four years, the restaurant has become a thriving, affordable destination for inspired flavors and terrific cocktails, all showcasing Traunfeld’s inimitable flare with herbs. Employees: 34.

27. Evan Andres
Owner, Columbia City Bakery

Est.: 2005. Because: The bakery that feels like it’s been in Columbia City forever is actually just 6 years old. In its relatively short life, it’s had a strong impact; in fact, more than 60 Seattle restaurants now feature the bakery’s breads on their menus. More than that, creating a warm welcome is important to the bakery’s success, too. “It’s such a gathering spot for the neighborhood and community,” says Andres. “As long as we can do that, I think we’ll be OK.” New projects: Last year Andres began a community supported bakery program based on the popular CSA (community supported agriculture) model, wherein local farms deliver boxes of produce regularly to subscribers. Employees: 40.

26. Scott Staples
Chef/owner, Restaurant Zoë, Quinn’s Pub and Uneeda Burger

Est.: 2000. Because: After a decade in Belltown with his first eatery, Restaurant Zoë, Staples reopened Restaurant Zoë on a bustling block on Capitol Hill earlier this year. He’s also kept—and attracted—supremely talented chefs, most notably the former Michael Mina chef Jeremy Ravetz, who’s now heading the kitchen at Quinn’s. On a more personal note, Staples tells us he’s celebrating another milestone this year: 25 years with his wife (and the designer of all three restaurants), Heather. Employees: 75.

25. Eric Banh
Co-owner, manager of development, menu planning and quality control, Monsoon and ba bar; minority owner, Baguette Box

Est.: Monsoon, 1999. Because: It’s hard to remember a Seattle before the reliably delicious Monsoon. Banh is due credit for introducing Vietnamese food to many Seattleites. In the years since, he’s opened a second Monsoon (in Bellevue), and the open-all-day Ba Bar on Capitol Hill, where diners stop in for pastry in the morning, a big bowl of outstanding pho midday, or broken rice with roasted chicken, noodle bowls, dumplings and so much else come nighttime. New projects: Look for changes in Monsoon’s pastry program, as Ba Bar’s Karen Krol has moved to the restaurant. Employees: Approximately 75.

24. Jody Hall
founder and owner, Cupcake Royale

Est.: 2003. Because: Hall first brought the cupcake craze to Seattle, and she’s always leavened her snazzy cakes with a dose of social conscience. She sources 66 percent of her ingredients locally, has gone to Washington, D.C., to push for issues such as health insurance (which her own employees get in her bakeries and five cafes) and marriage equality. She’s also unafraid to turn her lens on her own products, calling in baking goddess Sue McCown to revamp her recipes into moister versions that taste as good as they look. New projects: A reformulated “Deathcake Royale,” a miniature version of her signature Valentine’s treat. This year, also look for cake pops and other new treats. Employees: 75.

23. Josh Henderson
Founder and chef, Skillet Street Food

Est.: 2007. Because: His Skillet Street Food Airstream trailer was a game changer (and sometimes a rule breaker) for Seattle’s street-food scene, and he’s been a mentor to others trying to follow the mobile-truck path. He’s an idea guy as well as a killer cook: the chef’s burgers, poutine and “bacon jam” have won him a national following, with big names such as Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Sara Moulton throwing him love bombs. A brick-and-mortar Skillet Diner, which opened last May, helps him keep it real; updated classics such as the waffles and pork belly couldn’t taste any better if they were served off a truck. New projects: A Skillet cookbook comes out in July; he’s planning new expansions and at press time had just announced a new location inside the revamped food court (now The Armory) at Seattle Center. Advertising Age magazine recently called Skillet one of America’s hottest brands. Employees: About 90.

22. Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi
Chefs/owners of Joule, Revel and Quoin

Est.: 2007. Because: It’s hard to believe it’s been less than five years since the married chefs Rachel Yang (who hails from Thomas Keller’s four-star Per Se) and Seif Chirchi opened their Wallingford firecracker of a restaurant, Joule. An even bigger hit: Their second restaurant, Fremont’s Korean-influenced, affordable and downright fun Revel, which was hailed by this magazine and others (there was that mention in The New York Times, too) as being one of the best new restaurants of last year. New projects: Joule is moving to a new location this summer at Stone Way and 35th. Employees: 30.

21. Jennifer Shea
Owner, Trophy Cupcakes

Est.: 2007. Because: When her luscious cupcakes caught the eye of Martha Stewart’s advance teams, Shea refused to mail samples that might crumble or go stale; instead, she packed up a KitchenAid and hopped on a plane to bake them fresh, winning a spot on her hero’s television show. Lots of talents are dolloped together in Shea’s stores; moxie and business sense, sprightly designs and, most important, moist cakes, fine flavors and decadent frosting. In addition to her three locations, Shea also added a party shop at Wallingford Center and an occasional pop-up at Pacific Place. New projects: New flavors inspired by “ice cream parlor favorites,” and a bigger focus on parties. Employees: About 35.