How does the team at Willows Inn on Lummi Island, WA infuse the essence of their natural surroundings into every meal? With the words “fished, foraged, and farmed” serving as their shared mantra, it comes quite easily. This rustic Washington gem is also home to a fresh face in the culinary world – chef Blaine Wetzel. Recently, we set out to Lummi Island for a chance to meet this rising talent in his home kitchen.
Wetzel is one of 2014’s James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year nominees and boasts an impressive resume, having worked at the Phoenician in Arizona and Las Vegas’ Wynn Hotel, by way of Scottsdale Culinary, according to Food & Wine. At the age of 28, he’s a finalist for one of the food world’s most prestigious awards.
Presented by S.Pellegrino, the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year Award is given to a chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come. Being nominated for the award is an important moment in a chef’s career. In 2013, Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien was crowned king of the young culinary world, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. In the last year, Bowien welcomed a baby boy and embarked on a new venture, a grab-and-go turned sit-down burrito joint, Mission Cantina in New York City.
This year’s finalists also include Jimmy Bannos, Jr., The Purple Pig, Chicago; Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC; Jessica Largey, Manresa, Los Gatos, CA; and David Posey, Blackbird, Chicago.
The 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards will be held on May 2 and 5 in New York. The Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards Dinner will take place on May 2, the Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on May 5.
For tickets and information, visit the James Beard Awards website.