Seattle has its share of culinary rock stars whose restaurants grab headlines and whose creations are works of art. Behind every one of them are the hardworking pros who toil unheralded: sourcing produce, butchering livestock, trial-and-erroring new preparations, running the kitchen. They aren’t currently Big Names among local dining devotees, but should be in short order. They are the future. What makes someone a Rising Star? We looked for chefs under 40—or so—who are either new to their roles or recently had their responsibilities expanded in a meaningful way. It’s time you meet the best of them, in our first annual crop of Rising Star Chefs.

 

Image: Kyle Johnson
Class of 2013.

Jason Brzozowy

Executive Chef
Agrodolce, Golden Beetle, Tilth

At age six he started a fire trying to boil water, but the ensuing 24 years have been very good for Jason Brzozowy (bur-ZOW-ee), who arrived at Tilth after a short-lived stint at the short-lived Qube. His steady hand and kindred palate so impressed Maria Hines that she made him executive chef for all three of her restaurants. 

Now he shuttles between the three kitchens, brainstorming dishes within the playful but disciplined aesthetic he shares with Hines. After Tilth’s cache of modernist cooking equipment, he relishes the challenges posed by the newer properties—the intentional lack of things like sous vide machines at the Sicilian Agrodolce (review on page 91), the ancient wood-oven cooking at Middle Eastern Golden Beetle: “I thrive on unusual situations, where you sink or swim.” 

What his boss says
“What is Jason not great at?” sighs Hines, citing his leadership, his eye-of-the-storm calm in a crisis, and his uncanny ability to execute a dish just right—every time.

Signature dish 
“Sicilian cuisine has infinite variations on four ingredients: capers, pine nuts, raisins, and olive oil,” says Brzozowy. He adds Brussels sprouts for a caponata on seared chicken.

 

Carrie Mashaney

Chef de Cuisine 
Spinasse

Jason Stratton still remembers the marzipan cake with sheep’s milk cheese and fruit that clinched Carrie Mashaney’s pastry chef interview at Cafe Juanita back in 2005 when he was the sous chef. The two became coworkers, then friends, and Mashaney eventually migrated to the savory realm. Later, when Stratton took over at Spinasse, she was the first person he called. It’s her job to communicate Stratton’s Piedmontese visions to the rest of the kitchen. But when her boss opened Artusi in 2011 and had to split his focus between the two restaurants, Mashaney stepped up and found her own creative voice—a voice that’s often meaty, thanks to her butchery talents. These days the food is a culinary interplay: Stratton will take her idea for, say, rabbit meatballs and put the finishing touch on it—or vice versa. Her role is about to expand, thanks to Stratton’s upcoming third restaurant.

What her boss says
Few chefs, says Stratton, pivot so well between the pastry and savory skills. And he tries not to give her too much grief about her devotion to CrossFit and off-hours habit of eating paleo.

Signature dish
Crispy pig trotters dredged in flour, egg, and bread crumbs—a dish Mashaney devised to make the most of a weekly pork delivery 

 

James Sherrill

Chef de Cuisine
Restaurant Zoë

Of all the chefs you’ve never heard of, Restaurant Zoë’s James Sherrill takes the prize for plates that consistently taste as extraordinary as they look. He’s wary of putting too much food on the plate, so he looks for other ways to inject complexity; maybe sneaking in another flavor—braising salsify in saffron, say—to layer in intrigue without overwhelming. He then plates with an artist’s eye, a skill honed under Jason Wilson at Crush. 

Sherrill’s been mentored in a lot of kitchens—from 727 Pine under Danielle Custer to San Francisco’s heralded Aqua. At Zoë, he says he learns from everyone, seeking input from the staff and enlisting his cooks as collaborators. The result is a menu that evolves from strength to strength, with thinking-person’s conceptions that just never disappoint.

What his boss says
“James just throws his body at it,” smiles Scott Staples, owner and chef at Restaurant Zoë (and Quinn’s and Uneeda Burger). “He constantly has new ideas, wants to change the menu every week.” 

Signature dish
Steak tartare with big potato chips and diced cubes of gelee made from Banyuls vinegar, sugar, clove, and juniper. Underneath, a grilled scallion puree.


Michael Law 

Chef
The Wandering Goose

Owner Heather Earnhardt named the Wandering Goose, but the food speaks of Michael Law’s own peregrinations. He’s a North Carolina boy steeped in grits and bubble and squeak and sawmill gravy made from roux. After two years with New Orleans chef John Besh, the man also makes a mean po’boy. And of course there’s the fried chicken, honed in San Francisco at the Southern-styled Front Porch. His knack for seasoning, precision with a fryer, and exacting details each step of the way elevate unfussy fare into something bright and artful: “Some of the hardest things to do are the simplest, because so many people screw them up.” 

At 41, Law isn’t exactly a newbie, but this summer he’s opening his own fried chicken and whiskey haunt, Bourbon and Bones. He’ll exhibit a new side—like cans (yes, cans) of smoked seafood that marry Pacific Northwest shellfish with preserving techniques acquired in Spain. 

What his boss says
“He’s just jolly.” And meticulous, adds Earnhardt. “But he’s still jolly when busting it out. It’s so important; it affects everyone in the kitchen.”

Signature dish
A seemingly simple Hangtown fry. Pork belly is cured, braised, sliced, and seared; eggs perfectly poached. Oysters? Exquisitely fried. “Every element counts.”


Jay Guerrero

Chef de Cuisine
Boat Street Cafe 

The Filipino kid from Ballard had just finished art school in New York when a latent interest in cooking coincided with his need for a job. He threw himself at the owner of Prune, author (Blood, Bones, and Butter) and chef Gabrielle Hamilton, offering to work for nothing. When he arrived with a roll of masking tape and a fistful of Sharpies (labeling necessities in restaurant kitchens), the famously opinionated Hamilton made Guerrero her personal assistant. 

Over the next five years she would talk him out of culinary school, teach him everything she knew, ordain him her sous chef, and, when he grew restless for his hometown, hook him up with her friend Renee Erickson. Guerrero started at Boat Street Cafe last fall, bringing what he calls an anal-retentive (Erickson prefers obsessive) streak and a 24/7 curiosity about food. He has nudged her winsome menu into slightly weirder territory—he loves bitter flavors, spicy greens, and “funny bits,” aka offal—and has endeared himself to front and back of house alike.

Signature dish
Braised, seared lamb’s tongue, served with pickled mustard seed and arugula. “It is sweet, bitter, sour…and I think it’s delicious,” he says.  

What his boss says
“Jay’s not afraid,” says Erickson. “He’s creative and open minded, playful in how he cooks. He did a brilliant appetizer for Valentine’s Day: grilled beef heart with harissa, which was simple and delicious. And funny!”

 


Published: June 2013