Why He's Amazing: Because he went from being a server at Bennigan's (his first restaurant job) to cooking curious edibles (like spruce tips and chrysanthemum greens) over wood and fire at one of Seattle's hippest new restaurants.
Culinary School: Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts (Orlando, FL)
Background: Sitka & Spruce (Seattle); Lincoln, Per Se (New York City); The Herbfarm (Woodinville, WA)
Quintessential Dish: Quillayute River king salmon cured in honey and chamomile with poached and raw rhubarb, crème fraîche and eighty-percent rye bread
Heritage: "I'm from the South. My family did it up Southern style: collard greens, chitlins, black-eyed peas, corn bread; that's kind of the foundation of my cooking."
His Philosophy: "Don't mess up a good ingredient."
Enduring Food Obsession: "I'm a burger freak. I love burgers. I'll eat a cheap burger, I'll eat an expensive burger—ground meat, man! Just put it on a bun! I won't technically go to a fast-food burger place anymore, but I used to…"
Unusual Drinks: In addition to wines, beers, ciders and mead, Bar Sajor has kombucha on draft, sodas in flavors like rye and quince, and Jordan's locally famous shrubs—vinegar-based beverages accented with huckleberry or beet, for instance, depending on the season.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.