Premier Chefs Dinner
This year's featured chefs will take you on a four-course culinary adventure. Click below to learn more about the chefs behind the food.
Greg Atkinson is the chef and proprietor of Restaurant Marché on Bainbridge Island. He is also a James Beard award-winning journalist and the author of six cookbooks including At the Kitchen Table, West Coast Cooking and Entertaining in the Northwest Style.
Greg’s experience includes a six-year stint as executive chef at Seattle’s acclaimed Canlis restaurant, a three-year tour of duty as chef instructor at the Seattle Culinary Academy, 20 years as a contributing editor to Food Arts and regular contributions to the Seattle Times. He has served as host of the annual KCTS Chefs for Seattle’s PBS station and has been featured on “Chefs A’ Field” and Gourmet’s “Adventures with Ruth.” His food commentary can also be heard intermittently on Seattle’s NPR-affiliate KUOW, 94.9 FM.
Eric Donnelly began his career in the Seattle restaurant scene in the kitchen at Sazarac under the tutelage of Jan Birnbaum. 2002 brought a move to the sleek and sophisticated Oceanaire Seafood Room as sous chef, rising to the position of executive chef in 2007. The seven years of working at Oceanaire cemented his love of fish and taught him about the importance of globally-sourced, sustainable seafood. In 2009, Eric had the opportunity to team with Brian Hutmacher to open Toulouse Petit where he was transported back to the cuisine of the French Quarter and cuisine similar to what he had enjoyed cooking at Sazarac.
Fulfilling his dream to own his own restaurant, Eric is now working diligently to create RockCreek in Fremont. The venture, named for Montana’s Rock Creek, is set to open this summer.
Jim Drohman began working in kitchens at the age of 15 and continued through his undergraduate and graduate studies in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Washington. In 1989, after a five-year stint at Boeing Commercial Airplane Company, he decided that cooking was his real passion and moved to Paris to study the cuisine. Jim attended L’Ecole Superior du Cuisine Francais Ferrandi, and passed the examinations leading to his Certificate d’Aptitude Professionnelle. During his time in Paris, he worked at several restaurants, including Le Boudin Sauvage and Michelin-rated Le Coq de la Maison Blanche.
After returning to the United States in 1991, Jim spent a year as the kitchen manager at Market Place Caterers. In 1992, he joined the staff at Seattle’s Campagne Restaurant and in 1997 was named executive chef of both Campagne Restaurant and Café Campagne, a position held until 2000. In August 2000, Jim and business partner Joanne Herron opened Restaurant Le Pichet. In June 2007, they opened their second collaboration, Café Presse in Seattle’s South Capitol Hill neighborhood. Jim is co-owner and the executive chef of both restaurants.
Josh Henderson is an award-winning chef and founder of Huxley Wallace Collective – a group of restaurants, experiences and gathering spaces in the Pacific Northwest. Properties he has founded and led from concept to execution include: The Skillet Group, a highly profitable and successful enterprise consisting of three restaurants, a catering company, two food trucks and multiple nationally distributed food products; Hollywood Tavern, a unique and inviting burger and whiskey bar in beautiful Washington wine country (opening Summer 2013); Westward, a contemporary “water inspired” restaurant and bar located on Seattle’s legendary Lake Union and its sibling Little Gull Grocery, an oyster bar and grocery (opening Summer 2013). Josh received the Star Chefs Rising Star Award in 2009, was named the most influential person of 2010 by Seattle Magazine, and was recognized in Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2012 top 40 Under 40.
Phil Lehmann was most recently the executive chef at Carmelita restaurant in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle. Raised in a family of home cooking enthusiasts, Phil spent much of his time growing up loving the creative outlet and convivial environment of his mother’s kitchen. Phil went to business school and played basketball at California Lutheran University before returning to Seattle and realizing that home was in the kitchen. He then went to the Art Institute of Seattle for his culinary degree and began work at Art of the Table until he worked his way up to sous chef. After five years, Phil moved on to take over at Carmelita. He enjoys the freedom of working with local, seasonal ingredients and the relationships he has formed with Washington farmers.
Kim Mahar is the pastry chef of Seattle’s RN74, owned and operated by award-winning chef and restaurateur, Michael Mina. Nostalgia, whimsy and a desire to stimulate all five senses guide Kim’s dessert creations. In addition to her flair for visual impact and flavor pairing, Kim thrives on the science and process of baking and pastry, continually experimenting with modernist techniques and new ingredients.
What sets Kim’s work apart is that she came to a career in the culinary arts from a background in fine arts. After working as a glass blowing instructor and teaching assistant at such venues as Pilchuck Glass School, Pratt Fine Arts Center and Northlands Glass School in Scotland, her passion for working with glass led her to explore the possibilities of a new medium: sugar. She began her culinary education by obtaining a pastry degree at the Seattle Culinary Academy. Upon graduation, she partnered with culinary visionaries like Sue McKown, as a pastry cook at Coco La Ti Da, and Macrina Bakery’s Leslie Mackey, as their wedding cake designer. After honing her sugar skills she moved on to create wedding cakes and desserts for Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel.
Chef Brendan McGill trained at the Art Institute of Seattle and quickly worked his way into many well-known kitchens. Brendan was inspired by his formative years as chef de partie at the Harvest Vine in 2007. Spanish Chef Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez at the Harvest Vine encouraged McGill to take his culinary education to Europe, where he traveled throughout Spain, France and Italy, cooking in restaurant kitchens and with locals. After his time in Europe, Brendan did a brief stint as the chef at Cremant, then executive chef of the Via Tribunali group, before opening Hitchcock on Bainbridge Island in 2010, where he marries the techniques of Europe’s cuisine with the Northwest’s seasonal bounty. A year after the restaurant’s opening, the space next door opened up and Brendan took the opportunity, launching Hitchcock Deli in November 2011. The deli serves daytime sandwiches, soups and salads, and offers the charcuterie and farm-direct produce served at the restaurant.
Brian O’Connor is the executive chef of food production at The Skillet Group. Brian has been with Skillet since early 2011, joining the team after successful tenures locally and across the country. He’s known for his ability to create innovative and delicious food that is sourced responsibly and is familiar to guests.
A New York native, Brian graduated from Baltimore International Culinary College. He earned regional acclaim for the modern Mediterranean menus he created while working as executive chef at the Madison Park Café in Seattle. Other properties he’s helped lead to success include: The Swinery in West Seattle, showcasing his talents with meat butchery, charcuterie and sausage making; Blueacre Seafood in downtown Seattle; and most recently Skillet Diner on Capitol Hill, an award-winning modern American diner. Inside and outside the kitchen Brian is known for his warm personality and fun, engaging attitude. He has cooked on Las Vegas performance stages at Aqua and Tableau; and in San Diego, when wildfires devastated parts of the city he teamed with the Red Cross to prepare 1,000 meals a day for evacuees and firefighters. Locally he works with FareStart to teach cooking as a trade to the homeless. Brian lives in Seattle and spends his free time with family and friends.
Holly Smith’s Northern Italian inspired cooking at Café Juanita and Poco Carretto Gelato has received both local and national acclaim. Holly is the 2008 James Beard Foundation winner for “Best Chef Northwest” in addition to multiple year nominations from the James Beard Foundation for “Best Restaurant Service,” “Outstanding Chef,” and “Outstanding Restaurant” (U.S.). In 2012, Open Table named Café Juanita one of the “100 Best Restaurants in the U.S.A.” and in 2011, Zagat.com ranked Café Juanita as #1 in Seattle. The restaurant has been recognized by Gourmet Magazine, “Top 50 Restaurants,” Robb Report, “Top 57 Fine Dining” and “Best Italian Restaurants” from Wine Spectator. In 2009, she competed on the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef” and in 2010, Holly challenged and beat Iron Chef Cat Cora on “Iron Chef America.”
Holly began her career in Baltimore at the Milton Inn, moving to Seattle and working with Tom Douglas at the Dahlia Lounge as sous chef and then opening Brasa with Tamara Murphy as chef de cuisine. In 2000, Holly’s dream became a reality with the purchase of Café Juanita. The restaurant is dedicated to sustainable practices, a commitment to organics and local sourcing as well as forging relationships with artisan Italian producers and winemakers. In 2008, Holly launched Poco Carretto Gelato, enabling her to further her connection to local farmers while showcasing authentic gelato from organic ingredients.
Jason Stratton began his career at the age of 16 at Seattle’s classic Le Gourmand restaurant under chef Bruce Naftaly. From 2002 to 2007, Jason worked for chef and owner Holly Smith of Café Juanita. During his time at Café Juanita, Jason traveled to Europe to explore and eat in France, Spain and Italy. In early 2008, Jason left Café Juanita for a six-month sabbatical in Spain. Upon his August 2008 return, he was hired as co-chef at chef Jerry Traunfeld’s restaurant, Poppy.
Jason assumed the lead kitchen role at Spinasse in July of 2009. Since his arrival, public and media accolades acknowledging his talent grow. Named one of Seattle’s Best Restaurants in 2009 by Seattle Metropolitan magazine, at Spinasse Jason creates simple, refined dishes grounded in techniques from Piedmont, while celebrating the products of artisans and small farmers from the Pacific Northwest.
Jelle Vandenbroucke brings years of experience at Michelin-star rated restaurants and a fresh creative flair to ART Restaurant, where he will continue to cultivate the restaurant’s reputation for delivering the best in urban Northwest cuisine. Jelle prepared his first meal at the age of 12, eventually entering culinary school and becoming a classically French-trained chef working in kitchens across Europe, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
From Michelin one-star restaurants Hertog Jan in Bruges, Belgium and Mulberry Restaurant in Charlton House, Shepton Mallet, UK, to most recently Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche and Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, Jelle attributes his success to professional mentors and chefs along the way.
An alumna of powerhouse restaurants Per Se, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House and DB Bistro Moderne, Rachel Yang has trained under some of today’s most talented chefs, learning to incorporate a multitude of influences into her food.
Rachel ably incorporated her Korean heritage and training at D’Or Ahn, where she helmed the kitchen at New York City’s first Korean French restaurant, creating unique dishes that successfully bridged the two cuisines. The restaurant and its novel interpretations captured favorable attention from The New York Times, The New Yorker and New York Magazine. While at D’Or Ahn, Yang was nominated as a Rising Star Chef.
In 2006, Rachel and her now husband, Seif Chirchi, moved to Seattle to open Coupage restaurant in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood. In early November 2007, the dynamic cooking team’s now beloved Joule Restaurant opened in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, later moving to the Fremont Collective. The “eclectic American” restaurant impressed local diners, cultivating a loyal fan base of diners that loved Yang and Chirchi’s modern twist on Korean cuisine and garnered much attention from local and national media.