When chef Maria Hines opened her Seattle restaurant Tilth, in 2006, it was only the second restaurant in the country to be certified organic. By 2008, Tilth (whose name refers to tilled earth, and which prides itself on locally sourced ingredients, from mussels to chocolate) was named by the New York Times as one of the ten best new restaurants in the United States. And in 2009, Hines won the James Beard Award for Best Chef/Northwest (she was also nominated for the Beard Outstanding Chef award in 2013).

Now, in addition to Tilth, Hines has two more Seattle eateries: the Golden Beetle (opened in 2011 and featuring the food of the Eastern Mediterranean), and the Italian-inspired Agrodolce (launched in 2012), all certified organic.

Raised in Bowling Green, Ohio, Maria Hines took her degree in culinary arts from Mesa College, in San Diego, then hit the road—picking up more and more food experiences in New York (at Eleven Madison Park) and France (at L’Essentiel, in Chambéry). But at Seattle restaurant Earth & Ocean, in 2003, she came into her own, with a menu that sang an aria to the Pacific Northwest.

It was a “Battle of Pacific Cod,” in fact, that won her TV’s Iron Chef title in 2010, and her overall artistry that put her in the contestants’ line-up for Top Chef Masters that same year. And it is her commitment to farms and growers that has made her a natural as a board member of the PCC Farmland Trust, as well as a member of the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Action Network (CAN), promoting community involvement and change. Hines has also been active in events to support proposed legislation to label genetically modified foods, and to promote the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill’s Pulse Health Initiative (to encourage sustainability).