Food & Wine's The People's Best New Chef: Northwest
February 15th, 2011
02:30 AM ET
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If there's one thing our friends at Food & Wine do even better than throwing fabulous festivals all around the country, developing stellar recipes and generally making our lives more appetizing - it's identifying up and coming talent from around the country.

Since 1988, the editors of Food & Wine have feasted their way from coast to coast, seeking out 10 innovative chefs, each with a distinctive vision, creating exceptionally delicious food. They've bestowed upon these shining stars the title of Best New Chef. This year, the dining public has a say.

In each of the ten designated regions of the country, you - yes, YOU - may vote for the chef whose restaurant has most significantly stirred your soul and your palate. The winner of the The People's Best New Chef 2011 will be the subject of a profile in the July issue of Food & Wine and will no doubt hold you in tremendous gratitude and esteem until the end of time.

We and the editors of Food & Wine would greatly prefer that you only vote for chefs whose restaurants you've actually visited, so the "chef" part of The People's Best New Chef 2011 really holds true. See more details at and let the clicking commence!

Midwest | Pacific | Southwest | Northwest | New England
Southeast | New York Area | Great Lakes | Mid-Atlantic | Gulf Coast

Justin Wills
Courtesy of Restaurant Beck

Justin Wills
Restaurant Beck (at Whale Cove Inn) - Depoe Bay, OR

On creating tasting menus: “[Diners] get a whole meal of things that are not on the menu, created à la minute, or on a whim, just for them. From a kitchen or chef’s perspective, it’s fun. It’s always good to really think on your feet, and when you’re busy, creating a tasting menu is a mental rush.”

Ben Bettinger
Courtesy of Beaker & Flask

Ben Bettinger
Beaker & Flask - Portland, OR

How he unwinds at the end of the night: Coors out of the can.

Chris DiMinno
Courtesy of Clyde Common

Chris DiMinno
Clyde Common - Portland, OR

Food aversion: Canned tuna. "No matter how ‘good’ any brand is, it is always terrible."

Gregory Gourdet
Courtesy of Departure

Gregory Gourdet
Departure - Portland, OR

Side gig: Hair model in ads for Bishops Barbershop.

Jake Martin
Courtesy of Fenouil

Jake Martin
Fenouil - Portland, OR

Death row meal: Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger and hamachi sashimi.

Jenn Louis
Alexis Achten, Jasmine Photography

Jenn Louis
Lincoln - Portland, OR

On being sustainable: "We have very little waste - we compost everything, we buy whole lambs weekly that I personally butcher. Even on our busiest nights, we can fit all of our trash into one slim receptacle."

Blaine Wetzel
Courtesy of The Willows Inn

Blaine Wetzel
Five - Lummi Island, WA

Why he’s amazing: He’s taking René Redzepi’s Nordic philosophy and applying it to the produce and food of the Pacific Northwest.

Brian McCracken and Dana Tough
Kristin Zwiers for Spur

Brian McCracken and Dana Tough
Spur - Seattle, WA

Must-try dish:: Sous vide butterfish with foaming fish fumé, chanterelles, black kale and white beans.

Jason Franey
Brian Canlis

Jason Franey
Canlis - Seattle, WA

Best known for: Introducing avant-garde flourishes to a venerable 60-year-old institution in Seattle.

Shaun McCrain
Courtesy of Book Bindery

Shaun McCrain
Book Bindery - Seattle, WA

Why he’s amazing: His illustrious training (Per Se, Michael Mina, Taillevent) and limitless imagination produce food that’s polished and exhilarating.

Midwest | Pacific | Southwest | Northwest | New England
Southeast | New York Area | Great Lakes | Mid-Atlantic | Gulf Coast

Voting starts on 2/15/11 and ends 3/1/11 at One vote per computer per region. Votes from any automated means or intended to disrupt the voting process (in American Express Publishing Corporation’s sole discretion) will be void. Chefs with the highest eligible votes per region will become finalists (10 total). The People's Best New Chef title will be determined based on highest number of eligible votes received during the voting period. All votes subject to verification.

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Best New Chef 2011 • Content Partner • Food and Wine

soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. GH

    My vote went to Jason. We have three generations of Canlis lovers in my family. For the most creative, consistent, well prepared and presented meals, Jason's the guy and Canlis is the place. I don't claim to be a food expert, but I have never had anything from the Canlis kitchen that wasn't the very best! Pair that with the best service anywhere and a setting that is timeless... it's hard to compete against that. My hat is off to the Canlis brothers for bringing the resturant into the new millinium and making fine dining fun for a whole new generation....cheers!

    March 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  2. gs

    oh and how can you nominate 2 people as if they are one it is ridiculous. they should automaticly be disqualified for the running. 1st they will have twice as many of thier friends voting for them. secondly, they do half the work and third it is the best new chef contest, not cheves!

    March 2, 2011 at 6:03 am |
  3. gs

    what percentage of those in the running have spent money on public relations? What seems to happen with the james beard awards, it is not about solely skill but about who you know, timing and etc. what are f&w basis for which they decide who is nominated? We live and eat in the northwest! one of the most amazing and bountiful places on the earth to live and we spend sooo much time comparing and competing with one another we still have yet to solidify ourselves on the culinary map with the likes of chi, nyc, la whatever. we live in one of the best sourced regions in the country and it about time we stopped bitching and moaning and consuming our time with who is or who isn't and just celebrate. pick a fuckin side northwest, we are poised but to busy comparing.......... oh jake m for the win....

    March 2, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  4. BP

    We've been enjoying a very nice life actually and it's my b-day so be nice :)

    March 2, 2011 at 1:26 am |
  5. Joe Bag of Doughnuts

    Well it seems at the spur of the moment the polls closed. I am imagining the horse in the remake of True Grit collapsing at the end of the movie!

    March 2, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  6. joe

    Hey BP, are you working for the winner? Unlikely at this hour? Get a life

    March 2, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  7. BP

    Is anyone watching
    Dana tough and Brian mccracken's percentage increase by the minute. Statistcally unlikely–especially at this late hour....

    March 2, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  8. Joe Bag of Doughnuts

    Wow! It seems the Spur fans are really hungry.

    March 2, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  9. BP

    Is anyone watching Brian McCracken and Dana Tough's percentage increase by the minute? Pretty odd here at the end. Highly unlikely the votes are legit unless someone is voting over and over and over!

    March 2, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  10. Joe Bag of Doughnuts

    How does one go up a full percentage point in under 15 min. with 3 hours left?

    March 1, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  11. sara

    I disagree with you it is talent

    I disagree with you it is talent!People would'nt vote unless they
    really wanted that person to win!You want to talk about what is not fair how about two chefs against one.

    March 1, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  12. c'mon food & wine

    what a joke.....brian smith and chris castello have hit the nail on the head!!

    February 28, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  13. chris castello

    The reply by Brian Smith says it all: this competition is warped by its lack of congruency. If i served chili cheese dogs at Safeco field and the Mariners organization campaigned to all of their fans on my behalf–I would crush the competition and win this thing easily. Does this make me the best chef? or do i have the biggest fan base? Congrats to the winner; however, the other talented chef need not be discouraged by this disproportionate competition.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  14. Merrilyn

    Oops, I goofed up and voted today BEFORE I read the rules that you're only allowed one vote. Sorry!

    February 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  15. Poll isn't legit

    Food & Wine states that: "All votes subject to verification." I see some people are buying into this nonsense. Food & Wine uses the free version of Polldaddy's software and simply does not have access to the data required to perform an audit. These polls are primarily a stomping ground for bored teenagers with too much free time on their hands. The winner is usually the first one to cheat. I'm sure all of these chefs are very talented, but don't take this poll seriously.

    February 28, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  16. BOT

    I am a bot. I vote for Brian McCracken and Dana Tough. parameters: Must keep them one percentage point ahead!

    February 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  17. caroline

    I don't think this competition is quite fair. How many people can eat at a Seattle restaurant and then vote for that chef, verses getting to dine at a place like the Willows Inn which has a very small population and you have to take a ferry to get there. Population is what will largely determine the outcome.

    February 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  18. Jay Collins

    Again at Tavern Law and the race is live on their 2 way mirror tv, This is amazing!
    Good luck to both chefs, but my VOTE IS FOR BRIAN AND DANA

    February 26, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  19. Cloetta Perry

    Jason, If you cook for Canlis, you ARE the best. Only the best of "fine dining" come from their kichens. I know, I am 87, and have been there...!!!

    February 26, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  20. Scott

    I've had wonderful meals at both Canlis and Spur. Both are exquisite restaurants, and are extremely deserving of this honor. However, for me, the creativity, inventiveness, and format of the menu at Spur was what won my vote. If you picked up Spur and dropped it in New York, Chicago or San Francisco, there would be a line out the door and a 6-month waiting list for reservations (for the life of me, I don't know why this isn't the case in Seattle). Brian and Dana are, in my opinion, the most forward-thinking chefs in Seattle, and their brand of cuisine is on the cutting edge of a revolutionary way of cooking. Their dishes are artful, and the way they transform humble ingredients into shockwaves of flavor continues to surprise me, even after dozens of dinners at Spur.

    This is not to imply anything disparaging about Jason Franey – he is a very talented chef and Canlis is the most pristinely-run restaurant I've ever had the privilege to visit. The difference, for me, is a stylistic choice. In art terms, some people prefer realism, some people prefer impressionism. I tend to swing towards the Monet side of the world, and to me, that's just what Dana and Brian deliver... on a plate.

    February 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  21. Katie

    I voted my stomach: Jason Franey at Canlis.

    After I voted, I saw all the Canlis campaign stuff. I think the Canlis brothers are showing a lot of wit, creativity, resourcefulness, and tenacity. But even if they weren't, I would still have voted for Jason. His food is a pleasure to look at and a greater pleasure to taste.

    February 25, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  22. Jay Collins

    just voted for brian and dana, I had no idea that my favorite bar in this city was theirs, Tavern Law, no wounder they have the best bar food in the city. go Brian and Dana not only are you the chefs of one great establishment but two. You are defiantly getting my VOTE. Oh and try the Ballet box cocktail 4$ for real

    February 25, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  23. MargaretMary

    Chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough of Spur get my vote. Their food consistently transcends virtually every culinary experience I have had anywhere. Period. What I really enjoy is that they are both serious and playful in their approach to food, and yet it isn't complicated or trendy...just amazingly wonderful food from a couple of great Chefs.

    February 24, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  24. Josh

    Of any of these chefs where i have eaten Brian and Dana have been the most impressive, well balance, and technical food i have experienced in this city. if this were solely judge on the chef and there food, not the girth of there media campaign, and resources to spend on promoting there establishment and not the chef themselves, Brian and Dana should win hands down. Got to give it to canlis though for so being clever and entertaining, while trying to swing the vote there way. VOTE FOR BRIAN AND DANA!!

    February 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • brian canlis

      One more quick thought: I love Spur. I know Brian and Dana personally and frequent their restaurants more than any other outside my own. They ARE deserving, and they ARE talented. And I wouldn't want anyone thinking otherwise!

      February 25, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • brian canlis

      Josh –

      I only scrolled down to read your comment after Spur posted how much they appreciated it. I have two really quick responses to your post: 1. You should try Jason's food. It's pretty special. It surprises me that you could claim a "hands down" winner without experiencing every chef on the list. 2. Spending resources on our media campaign? Not really. Sandwich boards, a photographer friend, and a lot of creativity. Yeah, we rented a helicopter for 300 bucks, but when the space needle offers to climb on top of it, wouldn't you? :)

      February 25, 2011 at 12:19 am |
      • foodie

        I agree with brian. he should know as i have seen him many times eating at spur!

        may the best chef(s) win!

        February 25, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  25. Brian Smith

    I am a foodie living in Seattle. Ever since I received a spam-like mass e-mailing from Canlis to vote for their chef Jason Franey I have been watching the 2011 Food & Wine People's Best New Chef competition with fascination.

    I HAVE eaten at Canlis (prior to Jason), Spur, and the Book Bindery - now that I've heard of The Willows Inn, it will be just a matter of time before I make the trip. Sorry Oregon / Portland – I haven't visit in over 10+ years so I do not have a clue about your chefs.

    It appears to me the competition as currently conceived is rather skewed and meaningless. Being math obsessed, Canlis should win the Northwest People's choice. WHY? Canlis has been in business the longest (49+ years) and has the most seating (over 100 seats and does not include the 100+ private event rooms). Simple math, 588 months (1962, 49+ years) times 100 seats = a score / a ranking of 60,000.

    SO, this would mean if all dinners were to 'vote', it would be close to impossible to beat Canlis. Canlis has the biggest email list, historical reputation, serves the most diners, has the oldest fan club, has the biggest fan club, etc. simply by being around the longest and the ability to serve the most dinners.

    58,800 = Canlis – 588 months (1962) x 100 seats
    3,000 = Willows Inn – 120 months (2001) x 25+ seats (but seasonal)
    1,800 = Spur – 30 months (Sep 2008) x 60 seats
    150 = Book Bindery – 5 months (Oct 2008) x 30 seats

    Is this a 'fair' analysis since by Food & Wine's definitions, new chef's are chefs that have been cooking less than 3 years (36 months) at the nominated establishment? Getting the bulk mail I did based on a visit to the restaurant 3+ years ago (prior to the new chef's arrival) DOES seem to make the above math 'fair'. Are we voting for the NEW CHEF? or are we voting for the ESTABLISHMENT?

    What does the picture look like if we focus ONLY on the chef's tenure ...

    2,600 = Jason Franey / Canlis – 26 months (12/2008) x 100 seats
    1,800 = Brain McCracken and Dana Tough / Spur – 30 months (8/2008) x 60 seats
    150 = Shaun McCrain / Book Bindery – 5 months (10/2008) x 30 seats
    125 = Blaine Wetzel / Willows Inn – 5 months (10/2008) x 25 seats

    And the winner is ... still Canlis. So, again, what is the point of the People's choice? More people have experienced Canlis. Less people have experience Willows Inn. Whats the point of this contest again? If everyone LOVED their experience, Canlis still wins by sheer volume.

    *IF* you take the current PNW Food & Wine Washington State tally (today being 2/24 6pm PST) and take into consideration the above numbers to adjust the rankings you'll see ...

    31.6% Blaine Wetzel (3.96% votes / 125 above scoring) x 1000
    19.1% Shaun McCrain (2.86% votes / 150 above scoring) x 1000
    15.0% Brian McCracken and Dana Tough (27.08% votes / 1800 above) x 1000
    11.3% Jason Franey (29.46% / 2600 above) x 1000

    NOW, if you examine the numbers, you could draw the conclusion that Blaine has had on average MORE of his diner's 'vote' for him.

    So, again ... what is the point of the People's choice? Will Food & Wine do some math and ranking to tease out the truth to the voting? Or the WINNER IS ... the one that serves up the most covers and therefore has the largest fan base?

    Without some sort of adjustment, I doubt there will be few surprised to all the regional People's choices.


    February 24, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  26. diane

    jenn at lincoln makes truly beautiful food in a truly beautiful place. she is the kind of chef that allows you to really taste food the way it should taste.

    February 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  27. Larry Weingarth

    Our evening at the Willows-Inn on Lummi Island was meant to be a birthday splurge. Blaine Wetzel's sophisticated, delicious cooking was of the highest level of food art. He and his entire staff were friendly, attentive, and not the least pretentious. The food, along with the beautiful setting, will make me smile for years to come. You won't be disappointed.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
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