My colleague Allecia Vermillion came up with the idea a few months back: What if we launched an award series for up-and-coming chefs?
You know…to spot talent a la Ethan Stowell, back when he toiled in obscurity at Scott Carsberg’s Lampreia. Or Matt Dillon when he was learning at the knee of Jerry Traunfeld at the Herbfarm.
Yes, I thought. Because restaurant critics may know bad when we taste it…but we do our readers the biggest service by sleuthing out the good.
Thus commenced The Big Search. We asked chefs we admire and diners we trust: Which restaurants have the solid performance and steady execution revealing a deep bench in the back of the house? We asked front-of-the-house pros: Who does you proudest in the kitchen? We asked you, the almighty diner. I consulted my banks of files, containing my scribbled notes from seven and a half years as Seattle Met’s restaurant critic, looking for a level of consistency that bespeaks outstanding kitchen dynamics.
In time, patterns emerged. The same names began to come up again and again. A certain cool-handed superstar whose household-name boss (cough *Maria Hines* cough) put him in charge of all three of her restaurants. A certain chef de cuisine who endeared himself to his boss when he whipped up grilled beef heart for a Valentine’s dinner.
You can meet all five Rising Star Chefs here…and say you knew 'em when.