Seattle's celebrity chefs reveal what it takes to be a star

When asked to name one of the Emerald City's finest chefs, most of us can name just a handful. Tom Douglas, of course. Thierry Rautureau, maybe. Ethan Stowell, possibly. But what about the rest, the new guard of up-and-comers? The young sous chefs who work over cutting boards and dinner plates, arranging and creating and concocting? What does it take to break out in Seattle?

In an effort to pay homage to the freshman class of Seattle's culinary community, the Seattle Met has assembled a list of some of the city's "rising star chefs" -- names you don't know yet, but you should.

The five chefs, all of whom are under 40 ("or so," the Met says), work at some of Seattle's top restaurants -- think Tilth and Boat Street Cafe -- and are being trained by the city's best and brightest. Like Spinasse's Jason Stratton, who hired rising star Carrie Mashaney in 2005, and says that the key to chef stardom is hard work and dedication.

"[Carrie] had this eye for excellence," says Stratton of Mashaney when he first hired her back in 2005, "it was this kind of hunger to really make delicious food. So I think that made a huge impression."

Mashaney, who is the Chef de Cuisine at Spinasse, is truly on the rise; Stratton says he's opening a third restaurant, where she'll be "running the kitchen."

Jason Brzozowy, who has taken over as Executive Chef at all three of local celebrity chef Maria Hines's restaurants, including Tilth and Golden Beetle, has also had the fortune of working alongside a big name in the industry.

"It's been amazing working with Maria. What I've said before is that she's just provided countless opportunities for me and given me endless advice. I've been fortunate enough to take advantage of those opportunities."

And, says Brzozowy, that's what makes great chefs -- being in the right place, with the right people, and learning from them. His advice to young chefs is simple:

"Ask a lot of questions. Work hard. Stay motivated. And really do take advantage of those opportunities."

The Met's list also includes James Sherrill, who cut his teeth in kitchens in both Seattle and San Francisco and currently works at Restaurant Zoe and "wants to change the menu each week," according to boss Scott Staples, another area titan; Michael Law, who brings his Southern roots to the Pacific Northwest table at the Wandering Goose, and Ballard native Jay Guerrero, whose scrappy approach won over Gabrielle Hamilton, owner of Prune.

Of course, these are just a handful of the hardworking kitchen magicians in town. Says Stratton, it's easy for young chefs to feel like their work is being overlooked.

"A lot of your work goes unnoticed, but great chefs aren't working independently," he noted.

"If you want recognition, you just have to work hard. My biggest piece of advice would be find the place where you really believe in what you're really want to find the chef or the restaurant where what you're doing resonates with you. It teaches you a lot of integrity. And you know, just put your head down and work."

Find interviews with all of the chefs (and their bosses) on Seattle Met's website, or join the big five for an opulent event in their honor at Jensen Studios on June 27.

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