Small Kingdoms: James Beard Award Winning Chef Maria Hines on her Culinary Empire

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

Maria Hines

Maria Hines

Our top 100 Social Chef list features an array of culinary masterminds, many of which that have been awarded other prestigious awards. The list is not editorially selected, but rather it has been curated from social data. 

Since our list demonstrates that men are still the majority heading up restaurant kitchens, there are just over 15 out of the 100 chefs that are women, we are featuring the leading ladies on the list who are conquering this male-dominated realm. 

“High-end kitchens have long been regarded as a male domain, with culinary students worshiping brutal but allegedly brilliant men, best exemplified by the “bad boy” chef Marco Pierre White and made popular by the ludicrous character portrayed by Gordon Ramsay,” writes Jen Agg for “The New York Times.”

Gnocchi, Billy's farm maters, arugula pistou, pine nut @tilthrestaurant

A photo posted by mariahines (@mariahinesrestaurants) on

Fortunately, there are badass ladies obliterating this male chef stereotype. 

One of these chefs is Maria Hines, a 2009 James Beard Award winning chef whose renowned skills in the kitchen have led her to start a culinary empire. 

The Maria Hines Restaurant group has three concepts, including Agrodolce, Tilth and Young American Ale House. 

Her first concept, Tilth serves New American cuisine with ingredients sourced from local farms. While, Hine’s restaurant Agrodolce serves cuisine inspired by Italy with handmade pasta and sustainable ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. And Young American Ale House has a menu featuring elevated American pub classics like the crispy chicken wing confit and an organic grass fed beef burger.

Each restaurant offers a diverse culinary experience, but all are award-winning and strictly organic.

Some of Hine’s other accolades include­– being named Food & Wine magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs in 2005, landing the Best Chef Northwest Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2009, competing on "Top Chef Masters" in 2010 and then on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” where she won the “Battle of Pacific Cod,” and being named a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2013.

So it’s safe to say, Hines knows her stuff and any foodie would love to get a taste of one of her dishes. 

We decided to sit down with her to learn more about her creative process, see why her restaurants continue to thrive in the competitive Seattle market, and to see what advice she has for aspiring chefs. 

Foodable: How did your culinary empire start? 

Hines: My first restaurant was Tilth, which opened in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood in 2006. It was very important to me that it be certified organic while also supporting local farmers and serving New American. It ended up being the restaurant where I received the James Beard Award for Best Chef NW and was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by the "New York Times."

Foodable: How do each of your concepts differ? 

Hines: All are certified organic by Oregon Tilth and we work very closely with local farmers, and always have. 

Wild Cod sandwich, micro sorrel, giardiniera, tomatillo @youngamericanalehouse

A photo posted by mariahines (@mariahinesrestaurants) on

Tilth serves New American located in a craftsman home in the Wallingford neighborhood. Agrodolce serves Southern Italian and sicilian fare featuring house milled pastas in Fremont. My latest, Young American Ale House in Ballard is a family-friendly New American gastropub.

Foodable: Why do foodies love them? 

Hines: I think they appreciate the quality of ingredients, the care that we take with the food, and the approachability of the dining rooms, bars, and staff.

Foodable: What have been the top 3 challenges of building multiple concepts? 

Hines: Keeping food consistent, finding the right people to staff the restaurants, and having to wear other hats besides chef to make sure the restaurants are operating, from happy employees to an operating walk-in fridge, to marketing and more. Restaurant ownership means every aspect of the restaurant is ultimately my responsibility.

Foodable: Where do you find inspiration for the new concepts? 

Hines: When I travel, certain locations, people, or experiences speak to me and get my wheels turning.

Foodable: Any future plans in the works for further expansion? New restaurants or new cities you plan to develop restaurants in?

Hines: You never know!

Foodable: What advice do you have for other chef/restauranteurs? 

Hines: Listen to your staff with empathy, hire team members that inherently share your vision and always try your hardest, follow through and never give up.