Local Chefs to Watch Now

Eight up-and-comers who are worth keeping a close eye on

By Amy Pennington and Chelsea Lin December 15, 2014


This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Taylor Cheney
Chef Taylor Cheney comes by her love of international cuisine organically: Her mother was a capable cook who filled her family kitchen with everything from fresh pasta to Chinese dumplings. During Cheney’s time spent cooking at MistralKitchen and La Bête, she became known more for her Middle Eastern family meals and pop-up dinners than the food on these menus. The young chef left La Bête in April to focus on opening a yet-to-be-named Arabic restaurant within the year (hopefully). Expect to find what she most enjoys on her travels to the region: “tangy pomegranate molasses, smoky eggplant, bright lemony hummus, herbal salads,” plus a dose of unparalleled hospitality.

Photo: Scott Stedman

Aleks Dimitrijevic
There was a collective weeping this summer when La Bête owner Aleks Dimitrijevic announced he would be closing the popular Capitol Hill neighborhood restaurant/bar with an eclectic, internationally influenced menu. But thankfully, La Bête’s legendary Gruyère-topped burger is not lost forever. At press time, Dimitrijevic was scheduled to open the restaurant’s second incarnation in the fall—a nod to his love of smoked meats, tentatively named Spaghetti Western, he says. Consider this a version 2.0 and not a sequel; we’re not the only ones excited about what Dimitrijevic is going to come up with next.

Photo: Andrew Vanasse

Jonathan Proville, cook at Il Corvo
It has been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and no one embodies this ethos more than Jonathan Proville. Serendipity is practically his middle name. A shared car ride to an interview at an upstate New York pig farm led Proville to his first professional restaurant job in the kitchen at Gramercy Tavern in New York City. With no prior professional experience, but an extra helping of chutzpah, he landed that job in the kitchen at a well-respected and boundary-pushing restaurant, and stayed on for two years for an Ivy league crash course in cooking. He hightailed it to Seattle after Hurricane Sandy, had the good fortune to move next door to Il Corvo owner Mike Easton and promptly started working there. Today, he’s focused on opening his own spot and running several dinner series, all on the side of his full-time job at Il Corvo (Pioneer Square, 217 James St.; 206.538.0999; ilcorvopasta.com). His current plan: An upscale “farmers- market-vegetable- and local-seafood-driven menu that is elegant, natural and unfussy.” And you can bet when opportunity knocks, Proville will answer.

Photo: Chustine Minoda

Johannes Heitzeberg, chef at Pizzeria Gabbiano
You’d think with a name like Johannes Heitzeberg, a man would have a killer German accent, but it isn’t so. Five years ago, Heitzeberg moved from his home state of California to Seattle and started work as a server at the now closed 35th Street Bistro. Mike Easton (Il Corvo) was the chef then, and Heitzeberg has worked with him ever since, working his way up the ladder at restaurants around the city. While he has no formal culinary education, growing up with a small biodynamic garden helped nurture his affinity for vegetables. This summer, Heitzeberg was tagged to run the kitchen at Mike Easton’s new outpost, Pizzeria Gabbiano (Pioneer Square, 240 Second Ave. S; pizzeriagabbiano.com), where he pairs seasonal produce (he peruses farmers’ markets for inspiration) with sourdough-based pizza dough. “I take delicious dishes and break them down for pizza toppings,” such as his play on puttanesca, in which he slathers roasted cauliflower, capers and chilies over the fermented dough. Mentored by Easton, he is overseeing a restaurant for the first time (running the kitchen, staff and ordering), and we’re expecting good things to come.

Photo: Andrew Vanasse

Monica Dimas

Monica Dimas left her position as Mkt.’s sous chef in August to become a roving chef at Stowell’s collection of restaurants as a way to give herself more time to do her own private catering and other events. More importantly, she says, “It gives me time to explore the city’s food scene on my own time, which, in turn, deepens my understanding of what the city has to offer.” You can find Dimas’ signature in dishes where vegetables and seafood are involved, and in her hands, eating your veggies has never been so enjoyable. (Thankfully, Dimas’ boyfriend owns a Kent Valley farm.) The voracious 29-year-old has no plans to venture out on her own just yet, though if she did, she says it would likely be a sort of bar-meets-restaurant establishment that she frequents most in her treasured time off.

Photo: Hayley Young

Quinton Stewart, executive chef at 99 Park

Bellevue’s most anticipated eatery of the year, 99 Park (99 102nd Ave. NE; 425.999.3991; 99parkrestaurant.com) was dirt floors and blueprints when owner Micah Pittman and his business partners approached Quinton Stewart about being the restaurant’s executive chef. “I told them then that if they weren’t interested in being a James Beard Award–winning restaurant, my answer was no,” he says. The ambitious young chef—an ’07 Art Institute of Seattle grad who has spent time in the kitchens of Maria Hines, Ashley Merriman, Dana Tough and Noma chefs Mads Refslund and Daniel Burns in New York—still has two years to win one of the James Beard Rising Star Chef awards, given to a chef 30 or younger. He plans to use 99 Park, which opened in August, and the shareable menu of Pacific Northwest flavors (Neah Bay halibut, wild chanterelles, Washington oysters, etc.) he’s developed to get there.

Photo: Scott Stedman

Zach Chambers, chef at large
At a young 33 years of age, Zach Chambers has apprenticed in Rome, interned at New York’s Gramercy Tavern, worked at the original Cascina Spinasse and, until September, was the chef at Ethan Stowell’s Capitol Hill spot Bar Cotto/Anchovies & Olives. It’s no surprise, then, that he recently opted to take a breather and make time to ruminate over his next steps. These days, you can find him working the line at a handful of restaurants, dining out or traveling, all in preparation for his next big move, of which his deep Italian roots will likely influence the course. His own restaurant, perhaps? We can only hope.

Photo: Scott Stedman

Nico Borzee, chef at Hommage
Nico Borzee has worked in some seriously impressive kitchens (Coi in San Francisco, Joël Robuchon and Le Louis XV in Monaco), but came to Seattle in search of a simpler life—one with a backyard garden and more space for him and his family. At 30 years old, he’s been cooking for half his life, and has a pedigree seldom seen in Seattle. He worked briefly at Artusi before, at press time, he was hand-selected to head up the kitchen at Hommage, in the former Book Bindery location. Rather than work from a planned menu, Borzee prefers to build his pantry and create dishes on the fly. Ingredients are prepared in myriad ways, so Borzee can freely cook from the larder, as he does at home when his kid is hungry. “I want to create a dish for my customers like I do my family—when I need inspiration, I can just go in the fridge or the pantry.” With an extensive work history and a year-round climate that will allow Borzee to play with his food, inspiration is exactly what we’d expect.

Photo: Chustine Minoda

Eric Johnson, chef and owner, Stateside
Once upon a time, a salty dog who loves to fish moved from New York City to France to Shanghai to work for prestigious chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He then found his way to Seattle because “it’s like paradise—the mountains the water and the snow are like a dream come true.” The happy ending? A new restaurant. Earlier this summer, chef Eric Johnson leased and built out his restaurant space around the corner from Melrose Market on Pike Street. At press time, Stateside (Capitol Hill, 300 E Pike; statesideseattle.com) was not yet open, but expect a proficient take on Vietnamese food not currently represented in Seattle. Marrying his impressive cooking experiences in France, China and Vietnam (already seriously cross-pollinated cuisines), Stateside will offer Vietnamese with an emphasis on its French and Chinese influences. There will be more soups than just pho as well as house-made cold cuts for the banh mi. “I’m very pleased to live back in the states, but there are things I do miss about Asia, and this restaurant is a way for me to stay connected,” Johnson says. Lucky us.

Photo: Andrew Vanasse

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