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Wednesday, June 26, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Chef's Special

Barbara Figueroa's Food Interest Was Influenced By Grandmother

Seattle is home to some of the country's best chefs, preparing some of the country's most interesting cuisine. Today we launch Chef's Special, a monthly feature profiling Northwest chefs who will share some of their signature recipes with you. Look for it in The Seattle Times Food on the last Wednesday of each month.

Chef: Barbara Figueroa. Restaurant: B. Figueroa, 1010 Western Ave.; 682-5799; lunch Monday through Friday ; dinner Monday through Saturday.Co-owner/chef Figueroa says the name will soon be shortened to Figueroa's. She describes its style as Northwest/Mediterranean. An early Figueroa proving ground: Wolfgang Puck's famous Spago restaurant in Los Angeles, where Figueroa honed her cooking skills from 1985 to '87. Of Puck, she says, "I've seldom seen such a phenomenon in terms of popular acclaim." Seattle seasoning: For five years, beginning in 1987, Figueroa was executive chef at the Sorrento Hotel, home of the respected Hunt Club restaurant. Her beginnings: Figueroa, 39, grew up in and around New York City. Early inspiration: Although she didn't think of becoming a chef until her 20s, Figueroa was influenced by her grandmother, an excellent cook with whom the young Barbara spent childhood summers in Maine. Together they picked wild blueberries for muffins and pies. Her grandmother's superb chowder "defied description." Education: Figueroa studied hospitality management at New York City Community College. Cooking philosophy: Her cooking has evolved toward greater simplicity. She wants "fewer diversions on the plate," allowing the main attraction to have more impact. She says this entree on her restaurant's menu reflects that idea: farm-raised chicken with garlic-hazelnut stuffing, chive oil sauce and goat-cheese mashed potatoes. Thoughts on fear: Though starting a restaurant could make you nervous, Figueroa seems to have mastered fear. "Nothing much scares me anymore. You've just got to jump into it." Beyond work: She's twice-divorced and says a chef's career is tough on marriage, what with the odd hours, stress and fatigue. She lives in the Green Lake neighborhood, and despite a working life in food, takes great pleasure in cooking and entertaining at home.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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