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’40 under 40′ includes 3 in restaurant business

Terresa and Kevin Davis of the Steelhead Diner Credit: Courtesy of Donnie Adams,

The annual “40 Under 40” list of young and accomplished local business leaders, compiled by Puget Sound Business Journal, has now been released, and the public is invited to the awards bash. The event’s not until next week, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 22 (at the Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S.) but you have to get your ticket by this Thursday (Sept. 16). 

It’s an impressive lineup of achievers, and for the most part their names are not familiar ones. But three of the 40 are in the public eye as restaurateurs, with quite different approaches to the business of cooking for the public.

Terresa Davis, 38, of Blueacre Seaood and Steelhead Diner. While her husband Kevin is the one with kitchen talent, Terresa is the one with financial skills. (She’s also attending law school full time and has recently given birth to twin girls.) When Kevin got a call asking if he’d be interested in taking over the Oceanaire space that became Blueacre, Australia-born Teressa didn’t hesitate. “This is our family business, and it’s our one shot,” she said. She put together a successful application for a half-million dollar Small Business Administration loan to start the new restaurant. The most important thing she does for the family business, which now employs some 200 people, is to watch the numbers. “Weekly reports, not monthly. Proactive, not reactive. You can’t be reactive in the restaurant business.”

Ethan Stowell, 36, of Staple & Fancy Mercantile and three other restaurants. Stowell closed his first restaurant, Union, whose downtown location was hard-hit by the bankruptcy of Washington Mutual, but opened a new one in Ballard. He also started a pasta company, with olive oil coming next. And he has a new cookbook coming out this month. He described himself to PSBJ as “goofy,” but that’s just one side to his personality. You don’t get your restaurants named to “Bon Appetit’s” top ten list by being goofy; you don’t get James Beard nominations by being goofy. You might have had a head start as the son of Seattle’s cultural royalty (Pacific Northwest Ballet directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell), and you might be essentially self-taught as a chef, but you keep up your advantage through non-goofy hard work. Stowell does acknowledge this. “Work hard at something you love doing, and it will get easier,” he says.

Jason Wilson of Crush. Some people who cook for a living probably shouldn’t. They get too stressed, or they’re too messy, or their food just doesn’t taste all that good. Not Jason Wilson, who has his fingerprints as a flavor-meister on restaurants all over town. The Local Vine, in the process of moving to Capitol Hill, hired him to develop their Belltown menu. Fonté Café: on First Avenue hired him as well. Each had a limited menu with great dishes and unique flavors. Wilson is expanding this ability into a new catering company. His own place on the eastern slope of Capitol Hill, Crush, is evolving from neighborhood bistro to a prestigious fine-dining destination. Wilson won the James Beard award as best chef in the northwest earlier this year, but he doesn’t let honors go to his head. He says that his wife, Nicole, keeps him grounded.

To reserve a spot for the awards bash, click here, and do it by Thursday.

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