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David Blaine launches soft opening of Kendall Yards restaurant

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Today marks the soft opening of Central Food, the new eatery in Kendall Yards. Central Food is the only current eatery in Kendall Yards, the large mixed-use development on the north side of the Spokane River west of the Monroe Street Bridge.

Chef David Blaine has been putting together the new business in the Cedar Plaza building directly north of the state Court of Appeals. Formal address is 1335 W. Summit Parkway (315-3086).

Blaine, the former chef at Latah Bistro, hasn't said when the formal opening will be. This week's launch is all about testing the kitchen, tuning the dishes and working out service concerns.

Our last story about Central Food was in August.  Our announcement story ran June 7. Blaine said the restaurant is still hiring.

Greenstone is the developer of the Kendall Yards project.

Here’s how the future home of Central Food looks during construction

Not to overdo it, but we should have included an image with yesterday's story and post on Central Food, going into the Cedar Plaza building in the Kendall Yards project just west of downtown Spokane.

Here's what it looks like at this point. Construction is expected to run through September. Central Food, the eatery being set up by David Blaine, will take the back 3,000 square feet.

Photo by the Office Hours staff photographer.

What’s in the name Central Food? Chef Blaine’s cautious restaurant moniker

Kind of big news on the local food business front:

Spokane chef David Blaine announced he'll open Central Food, a new restaurant in the first commercial building in the Kendall Yards mixed use development.

This is the big project being done by Greenstone Commercial along the Spokane River, in the area west of the Monroe Street Bridge. Greenstone took over the project after developer Marshall Chesrown bailed.

Blaine has done restaurants and selective cuisine for more than 20 years. He's going to use 3,000 square feet in a building just south of the state Court of Appeals.

It's the first chef-owned place that Blaine has attempted. For the past seven year's he's been head chef for Spokane eatery Latah Bistro.

He said “I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself if I passed on that location.” He said he considers the Kendall Yards mixed-use development one of the city’s most dynamic projects.

“It has so much energy behind it. I can’t think of any downsides to doing this,” he added.

He expects to hire about 25 people and open the restaurant in December.

"At this point, I have more questions than answers," he said, about the full scope of the cuisine, the thematic focus and how he intends to market the business.

Chef David Blaine bringing Central Food to Kendall Yards

Here's the reason outspoken local chef David Blaine has been mum on speculation about the first restaurant planned for Kendall Yards: He's behind it.

Blaine told my colleague Tom Sowa he's opening the new restaurant in the Cedar Street Park Building south of the State Court of Appeals. He'll call it Central Food.

Blaine told The Spokesman-Review he wanted to avoid labels such as "bistro" or "cafe." He said the guiding principle will be seasonal ingredients.

It will be the first time Blaine has owned a restaurant. He has been the head chef at Latah Bistro for the last seven years and has worked more than 20 years at restaurants in the Spokane area.

His passion has been increasing the use of produce from local farmers and food from local ranchers, a sensibility that is sure to follow him to the new restaurant.

Here's the story for more details.

Trusting your gut

In journalism school, you learn quickly how dangerous it is to say someone is the "first" person to do anything.

The moment you think about putting something like that in print, those who have gone before emerge quickly. That's why I was skeptical that Adam Hegsted was going to be the first chef from this area to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. And despite being told that a couple of times during my reporting for the story in today's Food section, I was hesitant to write it.

I also didn't want to overlook an important detail.

So, I sent an email to the James Beard Foundation inqiring. The response:

"Thank you for checking in. I have checked our records, and chef Adam is indeed the first chef from the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area to cook at the Beard House. He will also be the first chef from the state of Idaho to be featured here."

Turns out, that's not true at all.

At least two other area chefs have been honored by the James Beard House.

Executive chef Rod Jessick, of the Coeur d'Alene Resort, cooked there in 1999 and received another invitation in 2003 or 2004.

Also, chef Brian Hutchins, who works at Stix in Spokane, cooked at the James Beard House in 2003.

Several other Idaho chefs were part of the events. Here's a partial list of those chefs. I'm still trying to track down the information: Keith Otter, Ketchum, Idaho; Scott Wamsley, Sun Valley Lodge; Barbara Barry, Ketchum, Idaho; Joyce Doughty and Kenny Rudolph, Ketchum, Idaho.

Today, when I forwarded messages from both Rod Jessick and Brian Hutchins to the James Beard Foundation, they wrote back: "Our apologies for the misinformation here. Our in-house archives are unfortunately not as accurate as they should be, and we are in the process of addressing this issue. Chef Jessick was indeed correct about the Idaho-based chefs he mentioned who have cooked at the Beard House. We were able to track down the event links to provide you with more information…"

"In addition to these events, we also hosted a “Taste of Idaho” dinner on 2/3/1998 with chefs Barbara Barry, Joyce Doughty, Keith Otter, and Scott Wamsley, however, this predates our electronic archives."

The chefs who called and wrote were incredibly gracious about the mistake, but I still feel terrible for making it. I would hate for the oversight to minimize the work that it takes to get to the James Beard House.

Rod Jessick said in a email message: "It is a great honor to participate and a lot of work… I look back fondly on the memories of the event I participated in," he said. "I intend to email Adam and wish him 'Good Cooking' at his event. Again, he is a very talented chef and will represent both the Coeur d’Alene Casino and the State of  Idaho well."

Cindy: Chefs Ramsay Or Bordain?

On her Facebook wall, Cindy (who will be co-hosting Blogfest 2012 from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Fort Ground Grill) writes: "Watched my first episode of Ramsay's 'Kitchen Nightmares' last night. All I can say is if Chef Gordon was in my mom's kitchen, he'd be sitting in the corner with a bar of Irish Spring wedged in his mouth! But now I'm wondering: Who would you rather have a drink with, Gordon Ramsay or Anthony Bordain?

DFO: I'd prefer Bent.

Question: Well?

Goodbye, Apple Charlotte

     From the first time I stepped into her kitchen, Char Zyskowski became a special friend. I was a freelancer, relatively new to the area. I’d gotten a tip about a chef who held cooking classes in her home on the South Hill. I called, we talked, and then arranged a time to meet.
    The thing I remember most about that day is the fragrance that met me at the front door. Savory. Spicy. Warm.
    Char welcomed me and invited me into the kitchen. She told me to sit down at the table and asked if I would like a bowl of the soup she’d just made. I declined, saying it was against the rules. She stopped, turned around and looked at me.
    “How can you write about what I do if you won’t eat what I make?”
    How indeed?
     I shrugged off the rules, picked up my spoon and I was lost. It was the most delicious meal I’d ever tasted.
    Over bowls of soup and a basket of crusty homemade bread, we talked. She told me about the decision, at 49, to create a new life. About how difficult it had been to be separated from her husband and children.
    I’ve never forgotten how her face glowed when she talked about her delight in having her husband there with her from time to time.
    When he came to Portland, she told me,  everything was a little better. “The lights came on,” she said with a smile.
    She was a little nervous about the story. Worried that her neighbors would complain. She’d just started teaching the classes and didn’t want traffic to be a problem. By the time our meal and the interview were finished, I was head over heels. I signed up for her cooking class. And then another. And another.
    Char knew I had no real desire to be a fantastic cook. I just simply loved being in her home, surrounded by books and pottery and flowers, listening to her laughter and watching her do what she loved to do. I sipped a glass of wine and watched the others fall under her spell. I brought my adult children with me so they could learn the basics and feed themselves as they moved out of my home.
    I trolled those cooking classes for interesting stories and met wonderful people. When I joined the staff of the paper, a controversial hire, I joined other reporters for more of her classes.
    When we sat down at the end of the class, to eat what we had prepared, we were bathed in candlelight and flushed with satisfaction. I was, at those dinners, less of the outsider. She knew that, too. In the end, I learned how to make a good pot of soup and she crosses my mind each time I chop and simmer. I learned to make peace.
    Char encouraged me, challenged me and, at times, comforted me. She asked me to help her write a cookbook.
    I was at her table, with the newspaper staff who was preparing a meal for the family of my young editor who had passed away suddenly, when Char told us that she was having surgery the next day. It was one of the most poignant moments of my life. The news wasn’t good.
    Over the next few years, as she continued to battle the thing that threatened her life, whenever I spoke to her, she showed the same strong spirit.
    “When it comes back,” she told me. “I’ll fight it.” And she did. The last time I saw her she was smiling, enjoying a day in the park with her husband.
  Several weeks ago, I was at the thrift store thumbing through books. I picked up one on setting a beautiful table. Just inside the front cover was Char’s name, signed in her own hand. Holding it I accepted that Char’s kitchen was closed forever.
    I bought the book and brought it home and put it next to the notebooks from her classes; the spattered and dog-eared recipes she’d shared.
    I was out of town when she passed away. Moving from one pocket of weak service to another as I drove through Yellowstone Park, I got emails telling me that she was gone. Staring out the window at the mountains in the distance, I said goodbye to a dear friend.
    Over the years, Char Zyskowski tutored me. She encouraged me and inspired me. She fed me in every way.