…pretty much exactly who you’d expect, though with a bit of a wild card Pacific Northwest contender for Rising Star Chef of the Year: Jay Blackinton of Hogstone’s Wood Oven on Orcas Island. Hogstone’s Wood Oven makes pizza and more, using almost exclusively Orcas ingredients. “If our hands hadn’t coaxed it from the soil or stolen it from the woods, we wouldn’t use it,” Blackinton has said. He sounds pretty great.
Maybe that category is reserved for the San Juans now; last year’s Rising Star winner was Blaine Wetzel of the (ridiculously good) Willows Inn on (ridiculously lovely) Lummi Island. (Well, Rising Star co-winner — to complicate matters, Wetzel tied and shared the award with Jimmy Bannos Jr. of the Purple Pig in Chicago.)
Wetzel (an Olympia native who cooked at Noma in Copenhagen, which is widely accepted as one of the world’s best restaurants) shows up in the Best Chef: Northwest category this year. The other Seattle semifinalists for Best Chef: Northwest are Eric Donnelly of RockCreek, Renee Erickson of the Whale Wins, etc., Nathan Lockwood of Altura, Garrett Melkonian of Mamnoon, Dustin Ronspies of Art of the Table, Jason Stratton of Spinasse, etc., and Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule, etc. There’s plenty of Portland in the category, as well as a nod to Jeremy Hansen of Santé, which is reportedly the best place in Spokane, hands down.
Other Seattle-area semifinalists:
- Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita for Outstanding Chef (non-Eastsiders, note: Cafe Juanita’s in the former Lark space on Capitol Hill right now while its Kirkland home gets a remodel)
- Canlis for Outstanding Restaurant
- Ethan Stowell for Outstanding Restaurateur
- Wild Ginger for Outstanding Wine Program
- Canon for Outstanding Bar Program
- Evan Andres of Columbia City Bakery for Outstanding Baker
To dwell on that Rising Star category a little further, how about Edouardo Jordan of Bar Sajor (and, eventually, his own Ravenna spot)? Or Zoi Antonitsas of Westward? Or Nico Borzee of Hommage? Or Joe Ritchie of mkt.? (Update: The press release indicates that the Rising Star must be “a chef age 30 or younger,” which seems a bit ageist, does it not? I don’t think all my candidates make that arbitrary cutoff.)
Anyhow, here’s the full list of the many, many semifinalists. Finalists will be announced on Tuesday, March 24, and the actual awards are on Monday, May 4.