Food & Drink

The Next Wave of Tastemakers, 2011

A roster of men and women who are poised to become the Seattle dining scene’s next notable names.

By Allecia Vermillion October 17, 2011


This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Neil Robertson
pastry chef

The man whose subtlety with flavor and illustrious stints at both Canlis and Mistral Kitchen made him Seattle’s biggest name in pastry, left his post at Mistral Kitchen earlier this year to go out on his own. But he’ll be back soon: Robertson (here, munching on one of his specialties, the French pastry called kouign-amann) is opening his own bakery, Crumble & Flake, on Capitol Hill (exact location had not been announced at press time;

Lucy Damkoehler
pastry chef, Taste

When prominent pastry chef Neil Robertson departed Mistral Kitchen to open his own project, the dessert mantle was passed to Damkoehler. She built up a following of her own during her nearly three years at Taste Restaurant at Seattle Art Museum downtown (1300 First Ave.; 206.903.5291;, thanks in large part to her doughnuts, and is now applying her own seasonal sensibilities to Mistral’s dessert menu.

Erik Hakkinen
lead bartender at Zig Zag Café

The departure of legendary barman Murray Stenson was indeed big news for Pike Place Market’s Zig Zag Café.

But the change also means even more people can appreciate the talents of Hakkinen, the cocktail destination’s new lead bartender. Hakkinen has been groomed to eventually step into this role since joining the bar in 2007, and he is ably carrying on the bar’s reputation—and its frenetic pace.

Carrie Mashaney
sous chef at Spinasse

The Capitol Hill Italian restaurant’s (1531 First Ave.; 206.251.7673; recent expansion and Artusi bar spinoff mean chef Jason Stratton’s longtime sous chef now plays an even larger role in the success of one of Seattle’s more prominent restaurants, developing her own menu items as she executes Stratton’s vision. Mashaney exerts her influence on both the savory menu and the desserts, for which her pastry background is critical in a restaurant without a dedicated pastry chef.

Olaiya Land
cofounder, The Pantry at Delancey

After running her own local catering business and teaching classes at places like Sur La Table and PCC, Land’s food ambitions found a centralized home when she cofounded The Pantry at Delancey in Ballard (1417 NW 70th St.; 206.321.5620; with Brandon Pettit and Brandi Henderson. Land lived in France and Belgium, and brings a Francophile’s take to the Pantry’s blink-and-they’re-booked schedule of classes with names like “Belgian Bistro” and “The Unhumble Soup”($40–$75), as well as the pantry’s frequent communal dinners ($65–$95).


Mike Easton
owner, Il Corvo

The former owner of Bizzarro Italian Café in Wallingford helped former Matt’s in the Market owner, Matt Janke, open Lecosho before creating his own pasta shop, Il Corvo, inside Procopio Gelato on the Pike Street Hillclimb. Easton serves weekday lunches only and has reinvented his career in a way that allows him to spend evenings with his family. Oh, and the pasta? Absolutely worth a midday trek across the city.


Mike Whisenhunt
chef, Revel

Known as “Big Mike,” the burly Whisenhunt met Joule owners Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi when he worked with the couple back at Coupage, came with them to open Joule and is now the sous chef at Revel (Fremont, 403 N 36th St.; 206.547.2040; A disciple of Yang’s focused, multicultural style, Whisenhunt plays a pivotal role in one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants.


Maggie Savarino
Bartender, Madison park conservatory

A longtime spirits writer for Seattle Weekly, Savarino traded her byline for tending bar and ended up as manager at Madison Park Conservatory (Madison Park, 1927 43rd Ave. E; 206.324.9701; with carte blanche over the drink list. Her upstairs bar menu of tinkered, tinctured cocktails and other creative libations is a welcome discovery at an already impressive restaurant. She also has a book, The Seasonal Cocktail Companion (Sasquatch, $18), due out this month.


Rachel Marshall
brewer, Rachel’s Ginger Beer

Disappointed by ginger beer options on the West Coast, Marshall started brewing her own in 2009, supporting the business by waiting tables at Lark, Oddfellows and Delancey. Word spread among friends in the bar and restaurant biz, and now Rachel’s Ginger Beer propels Prohibition-era classics and innovative new cocktails at venues like La Bête and Revel. This year, Marshall started selling her ginger beer in retail locations and invested in a “big boy juicer,” which means increased production and an end to juicing lemons by hand. At press time, she had just announced plans to open her own bar, to be called Montana, on Capitol Hill (1506 E Olive Way).


Bonus Celebrity Chef Round: The ‘Where Are They Now?’ Edition 

Some culinary rock stars we’ve profiled as up-and-comers in years past have scattered across the globe; others are still inventing new roles for themselves right here in Seattle.

Kylen McCarthy
After two celebrated years at The Harvest Vine, McCarthy worked short stints at How to Cook a Wolf and The Corson Building. Now, he’s working for Matt Dillon, running the butchery at Sitka & Spruce.

Dana Cree
The pastry chef who inspired legions of fans with her dessert thalis at Poppy left to travel and work at world-class restaurants, staging at Noma in Copenhagen, then spending six months at Alinea in Chicago. Cree is still living and working in Denmark.

Sue McCown
After making a name for herself at Earth & Ocean, McCown opened the much-anticipated but short-lived Coco La Ti Da on Capitol Hill in late 2006. These days, she’s a product developer for Seattle’s Best Coffee, creating both food and beverage items for the brand. The job “uses a different brain space” than that used in her restaurant days, but McCown says she loves her role—and the regular hours.

Gabriel Claycamp
Creator of Culinary Communion and West Seattle butcher shop The Swinery, Claycamp has a new project in the works that he says will make locally grown, sustainable meat products more accessible to Seattle shoppers.


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