Jason Stratton
Chef, Spinasse

1531 14th Ave E, 251-7673

Congrats! How does it feel to be named one of the best new chefs in the nation by Food & Wine magazine?

It's crazy. It came totally out of the blue. The senior editor called me on Friday, and my heart just fell out of my chest.

They flew you to New York, right?

Yeah, I just got back. It was nonstop running around. We ate at Momofuku Noodle Bar, and I had long conversations with Ashley Merriman [Seattle contestant on the last Top Chef]. It was such a big deal to me. I grew up emulating these people.

Did you meet the anonymous judge who ate at your restaurant?

No, but we talked through e-mail. She came in January. I don't think I noticed her—which is weird, because I'm usually good at spotting critics. They always come in parties where everyone orders something different, and then they ask really specific questions.

You're also the first Seattle cook to be featured on the Food Network show Chefs vs. City.

Carrie [Mashaney, the other chef at Spinasse] and I both competed. It involved a lot of hurrying around to different restaurants—and I don't run, so it was a challenge. We were both sore for three weeks. It's funny because they try and make you look like ferocious competitors, but we were just joking and laughing the whole time. I wonder how they'll edit it [laughs].

It hasn't been that long since you took over the restaurant from Justin Neidermeyer. Tell me about some of the changes you've made.

When I came, they were mostly making the tajarin [egg pasta often served with ragĂą or butter and sage]. Now we've expanded the pasta options and played around a lot with the fillings. My favorite dish right now is the tripe, which we slow-cook with bone marrow, blood oranges, and parsley. It's really stewy. We sell a lot of it, too.