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

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

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

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.”

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. 

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Mamnoon Restaurant an Ode to Lebanese, Syrian, Persian Cuisines

In Arabic, Mamnoon translates to “thankful” or “grateful.” In Seattle, it’s an establishment in Melrose Square that explores the intersection of Lebanese, Syrian, and Persian cuisines, an ode to the heritage of co-owners Racha and Wassef Haroun.

In this “Table 42” vignette, Chef Jason Stratton shows us how the restaurant makes its carrot beet tahini, a slight play on traditional hummus where the chickpea base is substituted by carrots from a local farmers market. 

“There’s such a tradition of community. Eating as a social thing is very important,” says Stratton. He adds that this mentality is picking up more and more in the U.S. “Americans are kind of more reverential of sitting around the table together and breaking bread.”

Stratton hopes that when guests visit Mamnoon, they have an experience that opens their eyes to what Middle Eastern food is all about. “That feeling of discovery is really exciting for the staff, as well,” he says. “And I think it’s something the guests are really responding to.”

The Downside of Seattle's Culinary Empires

Celebrity chef culture throughout the country has resulted in chef driven restaurant empires that can span multiple states, all helmed by one dynamic  culinary force. In Seattle, these empires are run by some of the best, including Tom Douglas, Ethan Stowell, Josh Henderson Renee Erickson and Matt Dillon, to name a few. These chefs each own multiple restaurant concepts and any have plans to open more in the near future. Yet while these culinary empires may excite diners throughout Seattle, they come with a downside as well.

Restaurant owner Garrett Doherty of Kraken Congee explained how the current restaurant industry structure has made him, and others, feel like outsiders. "It's really hard to start a restaurant here," he told Angela Garbes of The Stranger. "There are five chefs who own something like 45 restaurants in this city, and if you're not part of that crew, no one talks to you."

Additionally, developers and financiers often favor established business owners over first timers, thereby limiting aspiring restaurateurs' access to finding and real estate. And finally, there is the argument that with the majority of Seattle's restaurants owned by only several chefs, there is the risk of homogenizing Seattle's restaurant scene. Read More

Top 5 Farmers Markets for Chefs in the Seattle Area

Top 5 Farmers Markets for Chefs in the Seattle Area

By L.M. Archer, Foodable Contributor

As a busy chef or restaurant owner, why schlep to shop at your neighborhood farmers market instead of filling out a wholesaler order form? According to a recent USDA report, demand for locally sourced food has reached an all-time high, with current consumer spending at $12B. An additional 2015 USDA Study counts over 8,000 farmers markets in 2014, up 180 percent since 2006. 

For culinary professionals, farmers markets offer a variety of fresh, sustainable ingredients for any menu. These edibles typically eschew pesticides, additives, hormones, or antibiotics. Most eggs, milk, cheese, and meats derive from animals fed with natural grass and grains while raised in stress-free environments.

Farmers markets render more than just healthy, high-quality fare at affordable prices. They also present clientele a valuable opportunity to foster ongoing relationships with small farmers and producers.

Seattle consistently ranks high nationally among cities featuring farmers markets. Here, Foodable TV reveals Seattle’s Top 5 farmers markets for chefs:

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What Makes Renee Erickson's Restaurants a Success?

Renee Erickson in the kitchen  | thewhalewins.com

Renee Erickson in the kitchen | thewhalewins.com

Renee Erickson is the James-Beard nominated chef and owner of four wildly successful and different restaurants in Seattle, including The Walrus, The Whale Wins, Barnacle, and Boat Street Cafe.

So what started it all? Well, Erickson never intended to have a career in the restaurant world. She is not a classically trained chef and started as a waiter at the French restaurant, Boat Street Cafe. At age 24, the original owner of Boat Street Cafe asked her to take over the business. With a group effort from some of Erickson's friends and family, the restaurant was remodeled in one weekend. It reopened looking completely different and the rest is history.

So what makes her a successful restaurateur?

  • She picks her staff carefully and trains them in a hands-on approach to make sure they are the right fit for the restaurant team.  
  • The selected ingredients from the farmer's market determine the menus.
  • By wearing multiple hats: even though she now spends her time managing the restaurants instead of cooking in the back of the house, she will still step in to help if the restaurant is short-staffed.

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