In our Rising Stars series, seasoned beverage professionals spotlight five of the most outstanding up-and-comers in their city—and discuss the mark each is making on the drinks scene.
In the Pacific Northwest, there’s an overwhelming natural bounty of produce from both sea and land; therefore, in a typical Seattle restaurant meal, you may be served Puget Sound oysters, Skagit Valley kale, and Olympic Peninsula morels—all easily enjoyed with a host of locally produced wines, beers, and spirits served by some of the most gracious and humble professionals in the business. Despite its general lack of high-end fine dining, Seattle has a restaurant culture that encourages experimentation and growth. Similarly, the city’s informality is key to its thriving beverage scene.
The dedication to everything local forms the ethos of many of the city’s rising stars—including a multi-restaurant beverage director who transforms unwanted kitchen scraps into seasonally driven tinctures, and an advanced sommelier who actively mentors up-and-comers. Industry veterans are noticing—and championing—the work of these five drinks professionals who are helping the Emerald City shine.
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The Waste Alchemist
Rising Star: Elmer Dulla, director of operations, Salare, JuneBaby, and Lucinda Grain Bar
Nominated by: Nelson Daquip, wine and spirits director, Canlis
According to Nelson Daquip, the wine and spirits director at Seattle’s Canlis, Elmer Dulla is always in a positive frame of mind, despite the numerous demands of his job. The director of operations for the James Beard Award–winning chef Edouardo Jordan’s trio of restaurants (Salare, JuneBaby, and Lucinda Grain Bar), Dulla wears many hats, but “you’ll be greeted with a huge smile or a bear hug each time you see him,” says Daquip. “He’s creative, energetic, loving, and kind”—qualities that help Dulla shepherd a large multi-restaurant staff while guiding managers and advising bartenders on their individual programs.
“I’m from Guam, born and raised,” says Dulla, who moved to Seattle in 2001 to study at Seattle University when he was 17. He started working at restaurants to put himself through school. Stints at the esteemed Vito’s, 22 Doors, and Bar Sajor strengthened his bar skills. It was at Bar Sajor that Dulla met Jordan, who would soon recruit him to run the bar program at Salare.
Dulla’s experience at Bar Sajor taught him to work closely with the kitchen for his bar inspiration. The benefit of that is twofold, Dulla says—“You get inspired by [the kitchen’s] creativity, and [you] also work to eliminate waste.” For example, Dulla would collect the trimmings from citrus garnishes and dehydrate them before grinding the material into a powder mixed with sugar—“somewhat of a Tang powder mix,” he says. He then used the powder to rim cocktail glasses or incorporated it into nonalcoholic cocktails. Dulla also takes kitchen scraps—like chile oil from Calabrian chiles, stone fruit pits, and pickling liquids—and transforms them into syrups or other ingredients used behind the bar. “These are things that would just be discarded after being processed by the kitchen,” he says. “The creativity [makes] guests happy; it’s not just [creating something for] the sake of its own complexity.”
The Studious Sommelier
Rising Star: Alexandra Stang, beverage director, Hitchcock Restaurant Group; general manager, Bar Taglio
Nominated by: Martin Beally, former wine director, Wild Ginger
Alexandra Stang is known not just for her excellent wine skills but for the way she pushes and inspires others in the city. “[She] is active and dedicated to the community, working hard to mentor the young somms around her,” says Martin Beally, the former wine director of the restaurant Wild Ginger, who crossed paths with Stang at Stoneburner, a sister restaurant to Bastille Café and Bar, where she worked at the time. “We need more people like her who are willing to give back to their community.”
Stang was born and raised in Seattle. Her love of the French language led her to study abroad in Paris, at the Sorbonne, in 2005 and 2008. In 2009, she returned to Seattle to work at the now-shuttered Campagne, followed by Bastille. During her 10 years at Bastille, Stang pursued wine studies through the Court of Master Sommeliers and earned her Advanced Sommelier certification in 2017. In July 2019, Stang became beverage director for the Hitchcock Restaurant Group. “It has been incredibly gratifying to me to connect many of my passions—history, natural sciences, cultures, languages—through the lens of wine study,” says Stang.
Currently focused on her restaurant group’s Italian restaurant, Bar Taglio, Stang zeroes in on wine that matches well with the cuisine—Roman-style pizza—and “adds something special to the guest experience,” she says. “I seek excellent wines that stand out as classics or represent something new and exciting in their region of production.” Though she offers myriad by-the-glass Italian options, Stang’s bottle list also zooms out to showcase regions that once marked the borders of the former Roman Empire—that is, greater Europe and the Mediterranean. “In the Hitchcock restaurants,” Stang says, “we love local wines, small producers, female winemakers, and generally, wines with great stories, as the stories often really enhance the guests’ enjoyment.” Stang is deeply involved in Seattle’s sommelier community. She helps moderate tastings with the Sommrades, a local advanced tasting group, and she’s a member of a master-level tasting group. For the staff at her restaurants, she has developed wine education courses that range ranging from basics to deep-dives into France—and she recently created an equivalent Italian program for Bar Taglio. “I love teaching and getting young professionals more interested in wine,” she says, “and yes—on the floor, I try to drop some bon mots on guests to gauge their level of interest and enhance their enjoyment of wine.”
The Versatility Maven
Rising Star: Amanda Reed, beverage director, Heartwood Provisions
Nominated by: Chris Tanghe, MS, chief instructor, GuildSomm
Amanda Reed’s path to her current position as beverage director of Heartwood Provisions has been steady and intentional, says Chris Tanghe, MS, the Seattle-based chief instructor at GuildSomm, the sommelier education organization. “I’ve seen her push herself to continually grow through her work at various beverage programs, competitions, and certifications to become one of the most diverse beverage professionals in the city,” he says. “She not only has the wine and cocktail knowledge but also knows the business side of the industry and how to make a restaurant’s bottom line succeed.”
Reed started bartending in San Francisco in 2005 and eventually managed bars in chef-driven restaurants that also featured craft cocktails and wine programs. “I became interested in cocktails and wine around the same time,” she says. “I always had a passion for both sides of the beverage world.” During San Francisco’s dot-com boom, Reed managed the bar at Bacar, a now-shuttered wine- and cocktail-focused restaurant in the SoMa district, from 2007 to 2010, when she joined chef Michael Mina’s group of restaurants. At Mina’s RN74, Reed studied under the tutelage of the acclaimed sommelier and wine expert Rajat Paar. In 2011, she was tapped to move to Seattle to open an outpost of RN74 there. She juggled a number of jobs in Seattle during this phase of her career—bartending at Oliver’s Twist and Tavern Law, where she eventually became general manager, and working wine retail. At Tavern Law, Josh Anderson, the director of operations of Metropolitan Grill, recruited Reed for his restaurant group’s newest concept, Heartwood Provisions. “He had been following my career and thought I would be the right fit,” says Reed, “I was hired well before we opened, so I was able to design the bar and have input on many details of the concept development.”
Success hasn’t come without challenges. “Bartending was male dominated when I started,” says Reed. And according to her, it has tended to stay that way. “A lot of female bartenders get recruited by liquor companies,” she says, “so it stays pretty male behind the bar.” Still, Reed has used her time working in wine-centric restaurants to inform her cocktail program, where the focus is on food pairing and flexibility—Heartwood Provisions offers full cocktail pairings for its entire menu. Reed has also designed low-proof cocktails and incorporated fortified wines into her cocktails, especially sherry, to keep her offerings from being too alcohol forward.
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The Flavor Technician
Rising Star: Myles Burroughs, co-founder, Bevy Co.
Nominated by: Anu Elford, co-owner, Canoe Ventures
“Myles [Burroughs] has quietly been changing the Seattle drinking scene for years,” says Anu Elford, the co-owner of Canoe Ventures, which operates bars No Anchor, Rob Roy, and Navy Strength. “He’s nailed batching for the masses, keeping concepts tight, and putting balanced cocktails on nitro tap. He expertly executes ideas that others rush to put into action. He’s thoughtful, and that shines through in his work.”
“I went to school at UCLA and got a degree in political science,” says Burroughs, who has worked in Seattle restaurants since graduating in 2008, “but I decided bartending was the closest I wanted to be to a politician.” Becoming a star bartender happened gradually. Working at RN74 alongside Amanda Reed, another nominee on this list, helped steer Burroughs from wine into bartending. “[Reed] was the first bartender I had worked with who opened my eyes to the culture and literature,” he says. “It lit a creative spark … something that I don’t think I would have been able to explore had I continued down the path I was on before.”
Burroughs was eventually recruited to help run the beverage programs for the Derschang Group, where he was employed for the last five years, most recently at the Queen City Grill, a reimagining of Seattle classic. He has since stepped away—with fellow industry veteran Mario Coello, Burroughs cofounded a new venture, Bevy Co., where the duo are developing an at-home drinks appliance that will re-create the texture and consistency of stirred cocktails on draught. “I got into cocktails because I wanted to manipulate flavors,” says Burroughs. “I’ve put opening a bar on the back burner for now as I’ve been a bit consumed with this [Bevy] idea.”
The Beer Whisperer
Rising Star: Christina Dupré, bartender, Stumbling Monk
Nominated by: Lindsay Allen, sales coordinator, pFriem Family Brewers
When you visit one of Seattle’s most respected beer institutions, Stumbling Monk, chances are you’ll be served by Christina Dupré. “[Dupré] surprised us over and over again with her thoughtfully curated, unique, and playful pairings [at her former employer, No Anchor],” says Lindsay Allen of pFriem Family Brewers, a brewery founded by Seattle native Josh Pfriem and based in Hood River, Oregon, just south of the Washington border. “Her refreshing perspective and pure passion for craft beer ignites enthusiasm in craft beer novices and industry veterans alike.”
Before joining Stumbling Monk, Dupré was beer director at No Anchor, a 2019 James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for outstanding bar program. She was born and raised in New York and ended up in Seattle after having worked in project and event management. On arriving, she began learning about beer however she could—attending beer festivals and assisting as a steward at Beer Judge Certification Program homebrewing competitions, working at a bottle shop called The Beer Junction, and eventually landing at No Anchor in July 2017. The following year, she became a Certified Cicerone and was promoted to beer director.
At No Anchor, Dupré curated the beer menu with a balanced approach. “I keep my bases covered with beers that rate high on the traditional [and] approachable quadrant,” she says, “[but] I see value in having beers on our list that are provocative and complex.” Her mission is to encourage consumers to see beer as more of an agricultural product. “My approach is a touch different these days,” she says, “but my passion for demonstrating that beer expresses a sense of time and place has not. Beer offers the culinary world an enormous amount of opportunity to surprise and delight diners, while fostering new connections to agriculture.”
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Jackson Rohrbaugh, MS, is a Seattle native who has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Washington. He is the founder of Crunchy Red Fruit, a subscription wine box focused on organic, sustainable wines from small producers. Follow him on Instagram.