Seattle Weekly Food Awards: And the Winner Is...

Mmm... Donut trophy
Now it's official: This year's winners have been announced for the Seattle Weekly Food Awards and the Pellegrini Award, and you can read all about the deserving recipients right now either online (by clicking through to this week's food section) or in the actual dead-tree version of our paper.

The awards themselves will be given out tonight, live on stage at the Voracious Tasting event at the Paramount Theatre, but for those of you who just can't wait a few more hours, didn't manage to score tickets to this year's event, or couldn't haggle the scalpers down to a reasonable figure, here's the scoop:

Innovation Award: Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, Spur Gastropub

Sure, Brian McCracken and Dana Tough can name-drop with the best of them. They can quote from the El Bulli cookbooks and talk about [Grant] Achatz's wild presentations and how [Thomas] Keller was an inspiration to them both. But the kitchens they came up in? They're just about as far removed from the worlds of molecular gastronomy and culinary modernism as one can get without updating the passport, booking plane tickets, and flying off to some little town in Italy where no one has even heard of a fluid gel, let alone eaten one.

And yet, these are now the guys balancing on the cutting edge of culinary modernism--or Seattle's version of it, anyhow. They were in the running for this year's award because of their foams, dusts, gels and gestalt weirdness, yes. But it was the way they balance that with a commitment to making dinner, not just art, that put the two chefs over the top.

Sustainability Award: Carrie Van Dyck and Ron Zimmerman of The Herbfarm

It all started with Ron Zimmerman's mother rolling a cart loaded with some extra chives out to the side of the road to try to sell them to passersby to make a few bucks to buy...more herbs.

That was in 1974 and that was the humble beginning of The Herbfarm which, today, is a showcase operation--proving that local, fresh and sustainable needn't only be pipe dreams, but can form the basis of a successful farm and restaurant operation as well.

Pellegrini Award: Chris Curtis, founder of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance

The award we give in Angelo Pellegrini's name has as much to do with this idea of generosity of spirit and inspiration as it does with a recipient's actual work. One essentially has to have changed the world--or at least Seattle--even to be in the running.

And that was precisely what Chris Curtis did when she got it in her head to start the first food-only, locals-only, farmers-only farmers market in the U District back in 1993. All these great markets you see around today? They trace their history back to Seattle's first, and to the tireless efforts of Chris Curtis and her people at the NFMA.

And for those of you out there who might be looking for a little refresher on who Angelo Pellegrini was or why he is important enough that this award has been named in his honor, you should definitely check out the piece written for us by Ruth Reichl about the lasting impact of the man and his life.

"[His] was a slow-food voice in a fast-food nation," Reichl writes--and one that is still inspiring people today.

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