Our laureates

Every year, a single individual is selected to receive the Angelo Pellegrini Award.  Each awardee is distinguished by long and dedicated service to the ideals espoused by Angelo Pellegrini in his many books and his exemplary life: the ideal of good food and wine, local in origin and enjoyed round the communal dining table. Each person chosen as a Pellegrini “laureate” joins previous winners to oversee the activities of the Pellegrini Foundation, and alongside members of the Pellegrini family (see Our Governing Board) is entitled to take part in the annual selection of the next Laureate.

Winners of the Award include:

Charles and Rose Ann Finkel – 2015

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Both Charles and Rose Ann Finkel have deep roots in culinary and beverage communities. Charles was one of the first to introduce Americans to fine wines beginning back in the 1960’s. Rose Ann was born to East Coast parents in New Orleans, where she learned the pleasures of the table. To this day she still makes her Aunt Elaine’s spicy gumbo. Charles and Rose Ann’s first company, Bon-Vin was founded in 1969, and was the first to market Washington State vinifera table wines nationally under the Ste. Michelle brand. In doing so, they helped launch Washington State’s wine industry. In 1978, they founded Merchant du Vin Corporation, the pioneer U.S. craft beer importer.

Together the Finkel’s created several iconic brands for the breweries they represented, and Charles designed labels for a wide variety of these beers. Because they were receiving accolades for helping develop recipes, styles, labels. P.R. and other marketing for these breweries, as a part of Merchant du Vin, they decided to open a small brewery in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market. The couple was also instrumental in launching a Slow Food group in Seattle and they continue to demonstrate their eat-local commitment on the menu at The Pike’s popular pub in the Pike Place Market, from the burger made from Heritage Meats ground beef to pristine albacore tuna from local Fishing Vessel St. Jude. And talk about the model of sustainability: Spent grain from the brewery is used as feed by area farmstead cheese makers, whose products are featured on the menu.

 2014 – Tom Douglas and Jackie Cross

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Frank Isernio – 2013

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Frank Isernio’s father was born a year after his grandparents came to the US from Casserta near Naples. They were among the first Italian immigrants to sell produce at the public market .

Sausage making was a tradition in the Isernio home, and young Frank began making sausage as a hobby. Friends encouraged him to make it for sale.

Supporting himself with a night job in the shipyards, Isernio began peddling his sausage out of the refrigerated trunk of his car. His first customer was the legendary restaurateur Vito Santoro.

Adding customers as pasta dishes grew popular in restaurants in the early 1980s, Isernio built his retail sausage business one supermarket at a time, demonstrating its quality by cooking it himself. He bypassed the inefficient food-warehousing system of the time with driver-salesmen who delivered fresh products from orders taken the day before. When the market expanded to non-pork sausage products such as chicken, the company was ready to adapt.

Even though Isernio products are now sold across the country, Isernio says that he never set out to make Isernio ‘s a global brand or “grow the company to the size of General Mills. To me it has been the thrill of the journey. Quality, not quantity has been my motto.”

Read Frank Isernio’s acceptance speech for the Pellegrini Award.

Gwen Bassetti – 2012

Gwen Bassetti headshotIn 1972, Gwenyth Bassetti and two friends opened a sandwich shop featuring freshly-baked bread in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square. They called it simply, “The Bakery.”  The concept was novel, the food, scratch-made and delicious. The next five years brought a busy business.

In 1978, Gwen sold her interest in The Bakery and settled with a new husband and their merged families on a sheep farm in Goldendale, Washington. In 1986, After the sudden death of her husband and with the children off to college, Gwen returned to The Bakery, re-christening it The Grand Central Baking Co., importing a hearth oven from Italy, and beginning to bake some of Seattle’s first crusty artisan loaves from slowly fermented doughs. It is not an exaggeration to date Seattle’s nationally noted “good bread revolution” from that day.

Nash Huber – 2011

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Nash Huber

Nash Huber grew up on a 180-acre Illinois farm. He came to Washington in 1979 in his 30s, armed with a degree in chemistry. But when he saw the Dungeness Valley on the northeast Olympic Peninsula, he chose to apply his understanding of soil chemistry to growing organic vegetables in what he perceived was “some of the best dirt in North America.” Today Huber cultivates some 400 acres of land on various small plots near Sequim, In addition to row crops and heirloom grains (which he sells at nine PCC Natural Markets and 11 neighborhood farmers markets), Huber employs about 25 people year-round—twice as many during peak season. He also raises livestock. “Animal husbandry improves soil quality,” says Huber, dishing up some pork sausage made from his pastured pigs, demonstrating how improving soil quality incidentally provides delicious meat and eggs to his staff, his customers, and his family.

Greg Atkinson – 2010

Atkinson headshotGreg Atkinson has made numerous notable contributions to Northwest food ecology. As a restaurateur , he was responsible for the seamless reconfiguration of the 50-year-old menu at Canlis restaurant overlooking Lake Union. He has written a number of cookbooks focussing on Northwest ingredients and culinary styles. He has created a number of programs to educate children and youths about the place of local fresh food in a healthy lifestyle. But he was nominated for the Pellegrini Award primarily for his longtime work as a journalist. Beginning in the 1990s, his occasional columns on the pleasures of the Northwest table began appearing during John Hinterberger’s long-running “Taste” column in the Seattle Times’ weekend magazine supplement. Becoming in time the monthly name at the top of the column, his wide-ranging experience and acute observation of the local food scene made him a powerful voice for progressive culinary practice. In 2012 he returned to the commercial kitchen with his restaurant Marchand in Winslow Village on Bainbridge Island.

Chris Curtis – 2009

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Back in 1993, Chris Curtis was running a Häagen-Dazs franchise on University Way in Seattle, looked out her window and wondered what would happen if she could stick a farmers market right in the middle of the city. An actual farmers market: no crafts, no kettle corn, no pony rides—just food. “And actual farmers, too.”

Apart from a stint in VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America, a kind of domestic Peace Corps) after college, she’d never done anything like it before. “It was totally grassroots,” she explained. “Totally by the seat of our pants.” She had no funds, so she had to look for donations and grant money from the city. She had no staff, so she had to take on volunteers. Most important, she had no farmers; so she wrote letters, conducted polls, held meetings. All the farmers she talked to said the same thing: Don’t let any wholesalers in. Don’t let brokers in. And if you can manage it, don’t let any crafts in.

In 1993, the U District Farmers Market opened to the public. The first day, 17 farmers sold their produce to about 800 shoppers—a huge number no matter how you look at it. New markets followed in Columbia City (which followed Curtis’ U District model) and West Seattle. In 2000, Curtis formed the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, which brought together folks from all three markets operating at the time, soon to be joined by a fourth in Lake City, a fifth in Magnolia in 2003, another on Broadway in 2005, and in Phinney, in 2007. Still local, still farmer-driven (free of wholesalers and brokers), still with no crafts or kettle corn or pony rides.Simply put, Seattle is a different place because of Chris.

2008

Armandino Batali – 2007

Photo of Armandino Batali by Bob Peterson

Armandino Batali – Photo © Bob Peterson

Born in agricultural eastern Washington, Batali studied engineering and, like so many of his postwar generation, went to work for Boeing. Always a hearty home cook for his family, he deepened his knowledge of and passion for traditional European cooking while acting as a customer agent for Boeing in Spain after the fall of the Franco dictatorship. Upon retirement, he returned to Europe to study the art of meat-curing and sausage-making in Italy. His shop Salumi in Pioneer Square was one of the first stars of the reviving artisanal salumerie in the United States.

Batali’s impact extends far beyond the Pacific Northwest, thanks to the international celebrity of his son Mario, who actually began building his restaurant empire in New York City before dad retired from Boeing, but who gives credit for inspiration to the man who used to come home from work to cook for a wife and three kids.

Jon Rowley – 2006

Jon RowleyIn the 1970s, the first recipient of the Pellegrini Award brought fine fresh seafood back to a town that had forgotten its maritime roots. He went on to devise the promotional campaign which made the words Copper River salmon a byword of quality across the United States, and not incidentally vastly improved the bottom line of the adventurous mariners of Alaska’s treacherous Bristol Bay. For the local Metropolitan Market chain he created the annual Peach-o-rama which not only brings supersweet organic fruit to Seattle from eastern Washington and California, but also led to improved handling, packaging, and shipping for all soft fruits of the season. His evangelism for the virtues of composting has deeply influenced P-Patchers and home gardeners across the region. And his insistence on the mysterious harmonies of regional foods reinforced by season and “umami” has re-interpreted Angelo Pellegrini’s ideals for a new generation and a new century.