Photo: Cormac Mahoney at Madison Park Conservatory. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times
Washington state chefs won an eye-opening two spots this year on Food and Wine magazine’s list of the country’s best new chefs, a group of carefully curated picks whose inclusion opens up bragging rights and bright opportunities. I was expecting to find Blaine Wetzel of the Willows Inn slated for the annual “best chefs” group shot on the cover of the glossy magazine — he’s won national plaudits almost from the minute he arrived on Lummi Island. But it was even sweeter to find Cormac Mahoney of Madison Park Conservatory recognized for his achievements; for years he’s been quietly, quirkily, turning out food that’s true to his heart and thinking up interesting projects. (In the F&W profile he credited Matt Dillon, his former boss at Sitka and Spruce, as an inspiration.)
Only Seattle and New York boasted two winners this year (Jenn Louis of Portland was also tapped from the Northwest). Previous honorees are a Who’s Who timeline from Seattle’s best-regarded kitchens, including Tamara Murphy (1994), Danielle Custer (1998), John Sundstrom (2001), Maria Hines (2005), Jason Wilson (2006), Matt Dillon (2007), Ethan Stowell (2008), Mark Fuller (2009), Jason Stratton (2010), and Jason Franey (2011).
Check out the F&W profiles for a look at Wetzel (“I would love to have a place that served just preserved goods, canned goods, things that you make in-house, like pickles and cured meats”) and Mahoney (“I want to put out food that has the effect of the meal in Like Water for Chocolate.”) And expect to see more of them on the national stage — as Eater commented, “One of the most significant aspects of the Food and Wine nod is that the magazine tends to follow and support their chosen “new” chefs throughout their careers.”
In other notable award news for locals, give a hat-tip to former Seattleite Brad Thomas Parsons, who took home an award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in the category of Wine, Beer, or Spirits for his book Bitters. Give a triple nod to Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet, who won three IACP awards for Modernist Cuisine — a “Visionary Achievement Award” and wins in the categories of design and professional kitchen books. Becky Selengut was a finalist in the “Food Matters” category for her Good Fish. Here’s the full IACP list.