After deciding who should be president, the state of the university housing system, and how good my sister's stuffing is, we got down to the real knock-down, voices raised discussion: when, exactly, did Seattle become a real restaurant town, and who were the players? The spark of the debate was Nancy Leson's big bite of restaurant history, The Godfathers of Gourmet article in last Sunday's Seattle Times. Leson got some of the godfathers right, but she left out one of the godmothers, namely my sister Ellen, who started her gourmet burger place, Original Ellen's, in 1976 and preceded the time-line of Leson's article by several years. It's the choice of year that sets the table for the state of Seattle restaurants. Ellen had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in 1974, when the school just began accepting women. The ultimate restaurateur in Seattle, then and until his death, was Victor Rosellini. It was his son, Robert, who opened The Other Place in the old Dubliner at 4th and Union (now Key Bank). The Rosellinis decided it was time for a Northwest restaurant, something in the very early vein of the locally sourced phenomenon of today. Primarily, they brought the sense that the table had been hunted down: wild game, truite en bleu (in which the trout is stunned and killed in its tank to preserve the color of the just-dead fish). The waiters were old-school. The chefs were landed like prizes. Among them was Dominique Place, an acclaimed French apprentice who spoke no English. He wound up living in my sister's apartment building because of a multi-lingual manager. I tried my high school French on him in our family living room. In another part of the town -- Pioneer Square was the fashionable place -- Peter Cipra had Prague, with its Mittle-European style of cooking that muscled past the delicacies of French classic standards. Peter was not destined to be a godfather: he was the ruler of his kitchen at Prague, and later Labuznik, turning out those immortal tournedos black and white. Rosellini and Cipra ran their kingdoms. The new generation scattered into all directions of food. Dominique left The Other Place to open his eponymous restaurant in Madison Park, along with his wife, Chou Chou. Gerard's Relais de Lyon opened near Bothell (the two men later created a smoked seafood brand, Gerard et Dominique). There were the three guys, Zev Siegel, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker, who in 1971 opened Starbucks in pursuit of good coffee. Gordon would later launch Redhook with Paul Shipman because he wanted good beer. Paul came to the Northwest through US Tobacco, owner of Chateau Ste Michelle, the first Washington wine I recall seeing in a New York wine store. There was also the Weekly, which gave extensive press to everything that was happening. Food, wine, movies; the new good life here, emerging in odd pockets and people. Restaurants seemed to sprout small. Les Copains, the first from Bruce Naftaly. Taste de Vin, squeezed into a side space next to the then-single screen Uptown Theater. Ellen's story started at the Washington Plaza, then The Other Place, Crepe de Paris and Boondocks, all for three to six months of work. There was a glass ceiling for a classically trained female chef; there was a ceiling for the classically trained in America, period. She and Stephen Paul, another CIA graduate, opened Original Ellen's in Gilman Village (our parents' business) in Issaquah. The notion was hamburgers, milkshakes and fries, but like no other. Special grinds, buns, hand-cuts, cream. The longest beer list in the state. The desserts were in another realm altogether: Black Forest Cake, Chocolate Sabayone Cake, Linzer Torte and Chocolate Truffle Torte. In their heyday, 1976 to 1980, the place was packed. The Seattle Weekly came out to Issaquah to write a glowing review. Ellen and Stephen were profiled in the newspapers, featured on television, and otherwise turned into celebrities around town. Everything came together around the same time, as it often does, propitiously and because everyone gets along and gets into each other's business. The chefs came to eat at Ellen's. She went to eat at Gordo's, Peter Dow's burger place near Shilshole (before Cafe Juanita). Now there was good bread around town (Grand Central Bakery, the Boulangerie). There was a great bookstore (Elliott Bay Books) and a home grown independent film chain (The Seven Gables). Nancy's article gave the sense of a restaurant community that, in its era, begat others: Luciano to Scott Carsberg; Peter Lewis; Christine Keff; Tom Douglas; Tamara Murphy. My sister's generation, in general, got out. To have children, start other businesses, go wholesale, watch their creations go global. They weren't the long tail but the tipping point that made Seattle a restaurant town.