via Spokesman Review
By Julien A. Luebbers
Spokane’s food scene is on the come up, and Crave! NW is where it shows.
The foodie-oriented event, which takes place Thursday through Saturday in Spokane Valley, is not only an opportunity for local chefs to display their work in a positive, experimental and festive environment, it’s also a space for them to meet and cook alongside widely recognized chefs from around the country and even beyond.
Crave! NW was co-founded by local chef Adam Hegsted over a decade ago. He and other local chefs sought to “progress the food movement in Spokane,” Hegsted said.
“I thought that we needed some sort of catalyst to … keep the community engaged, keep the chefs collaborating and talking with each other, and to show off people that are doing some cool stuff.”
Crave! serves that role, an opportunity for local chefs, breweries, winemakers and more to connect with one another over a public-facing culinary celebration. It’s also a great opportunity to discover more local chefs and eateries to support and enjoy.
“I look forward to it every year,” said Travis Dickinson, chef and co-owner of Cochinito. “It’s a good chance for local chefs to put their best foot forward, show their creativity.” Dickinson will be preparing a poached Spanish octopus tostado with aji amarillo, citrus marinade and “some other fun stuff.”
This year’s Crave! NW lineup includes more than 45 chefs, 20 local producers, 12 breweries and cider houses, 12 wineries, music and entertainment. Entry is all-inclusive and restricted to those 21 and older.
The chefs include a number of out-of-towners, including a group of star, or celebrity chefs. This year’s roster includes chefs Alvin Cailan, Brian Duffy, Mark Singson and Mattias Merges, who will be cooking, judging and socializing throughout the weekend.
Duffy will be making his fifth appearance at the event. “I really had know idea what to expect,” Duffy said, recalling his first appearance at the event. “As soon as I landed, I just completely fell in love with the area.” Between the local scenery and the culinary community that greeted him, Crave! has become an annual event for Duffy.
“It’s such a great group of people to be able to get out there, hang out, have fun and eat some great food,” Duffy said. “I’m super honored to be able to even be invited out to these events.”
Chef Duffy will be cooking mulitas with mojo roasted pork, a sort of street quesadilla dipped in broth, grilled and then filled with meat and cheese.
“Sometimes when you do these sorts of events, you basically come in and they use you, in a way, for your food,” Hegsted said. “We do things a little bit differently, we pay the chefs to be there.”
“It’s not competitive,” he said, “it’s more bringing each other up.” The event’s primary goal is to “create this community through food.”
Crave! NW is operated by the JAKT foundation, a local nonprofit organization supporting the culinary community. “Our idea,” said Hegsted, “is when this (event) gets to profitability, to give that back to the hospitality community.”
While the chefs take center stage, Crave! NW is of course a public, ticketed event. Hegsted expects about 2,000 attendees throughout the weekend, about 650 per day. It’s a return to full attendance following last year’s smaller, one-day event and the 2020 cancellation due to the pandemic.
“It’s great to see the community come out and support us,” Hegsted said.
In addition to leading the event’s organization, Hegsted is cooking a salmon chorizo, with patas bravas, rouille, sherry vinegar reduction, micro cilantro and smoked paprika.
Each of the event’s nights has a theme for that evening’s chefs to contribute to, so no night will be quite like the others.
Thursday night, the beginning of the celebration, is the Burger Smack Down. Local and celebrity chefs will enter into a judged contest testing their best burgers. Attendees will also have a say, resulting a People’s Choice award when the night is over. The evening will be accompanied by Relentless Wrestlers, an entertainment wrestling group, and live music from Kosta la Vista and Okay Honey at the after-party.
Friday night will bring a culinary pivot, away from American staples and toward global cuisines. A team of chefs will take on the theme of “Foods from Around the World” for the enjoyment of attendees, in a carnival-inspired environment with more live entertainment, Beer, wine, desserts and more will be available each night. Erin Parkes is performing at the after-party.
Saturday brings a preparation theme: Fire and Smoke. Chefs will be given the opportunity to show off their aptitude for flames and smoky flavors; food will be cooked over live fire, charcoal or smoke. Performances from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe will accompany. A performance by Logee will bring the weekend to a close.