Chad White is coming home.
After making a name for himself in the San Diego food scene, the Spokane-born chef plans to return to the Inland Northwest to open a restaurant.
Native Post and Provisions is slated to open in spring 2016. White, who’s moving back to Spokane in early December after 14 years away, is still looking for a space for his latest business.
But his leaving of a culinary hotbed like San Diego for Spokane marks a turning point for this city’s food scene, which has been burgeoning during the past seven years. His decision to relocate here signals to the rest of the restaurant world that Spokane’s food scene is indeed something special.
White, who’s appearing in this season of “Top Chef,” wants to be part of it.
“It seems like it’s the right time,” he said. “I see that there’s great potential.”
The 32-year-old chef had been splitting his time between San Diego, where he had two restaurants, and Tijuana, Mexico, where he has one.
He shuttered Común Taqueria in San Diego a few days ago, but plans to keep running La Justina in Tijuana as well as Craft Pizza Co., which offers New York-style pizza in an upscale mall in San Diego.
He said he hopes expand the pizza place as a franchise with multiple locations.
Meantime, look for him on the 13th season of “Top Chef.” Bravo airs the two-night premiere at 10 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3.
Filming took place earlier this year. Dubbed “Top Chef California,” the series takes a road trip through the Golden State, with stops in Palm Springs, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Diego.
“Some of the chefs that go on the show are pretty famous chefs,” White said. “I didn’t have a lot of formal training. I’ve had to teach myself. I made a big name for myself in San Diego, but how do I stack up against the rest of the country?”
He can’t say how far he makes it into the competition, which he called “really stressful.
“Most chefs have pretty big egos, and you almost have to,” he said. “You have to be kind of a lunatic” to work in a hot kitchen where you can burn or cut yourself. “It’s not exactly a cushy work environment.”
White completed his culinary training in the U.S. Navy. The 2001 Central Valley High School graduate enlisted on Sept. 11 and left Spokane in January 2002.
He said he’s been back to visit five times since then. Each time, White’s visited a couple of restaurants – “research and development,” he said – and took note of the changing food scene.
He was particularly “impressed with Santé” Restaurant and Charcuterie. In fact, he’s already planning a collaborative dinner with chef Jeremy Hansen, who owns the downtown restaurant with his wife, Kate.
He’s looking for restaurant space downtown. But, “Perry Street is really cool,” said White, who’s known for his charity work and food advocacy in San Diego. He’s also interested in Kendall Yards and the Garland District.
His arrival could bring Spokane increased regional and national attention, said Tim Robinson, director of communications for Visit Spokane, the region’s destination marketing organization.
“From all appearances, chef White is all about community, and it’s great that he’s decided to come home to Spokane,” Robinson said. “Our region has a ton of great chefs scattered throughout all the terrific restaurants, so he’s going to fit right in.”
White’s bio on Bravo’s website describes his fare as “eclectic urban style and Baja influenced food.” In Spokane, he’ll focus on Inland Northwest cuisine, using local and organic ingredients as much as possible.
“For me, it’s about kind of going back to my roots,” White said. “I’m not talking about buffalo heart or anything like that.”
But Native Post and Provisions patrons can expect to find “only river fish” and wild game – bison, duck and maybe quail and deer – on the menu. Winter months, when fresh local produce is harder to come by, he plans to serve house-pickled, -preserved and -dehydrated foods from the region.
“I want to celebrate food from the Inland Northwest,” White said. “I can provide a spotlight on what we are. Most people hear Washington and they think of Seattle. I’m going to bring a bit of my own personal style to what Spokane has to offer.”
His San Diego going-away party is Dec. 3. White lands in Spokane a few days later. He plans to visit Southern and Baja California twice per quarter to check on his restaurants there. But he’s looking forward to his homecoming.
“It’s really about quality of life,” White said. “I hope I come up and make people proud.”
For more information, visit White’s website at www.chefchadwhite.com or the new restaurant’s website at www.nativeprovisions.com.