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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Culinary chefs showcase Crave NW set for July

Julie Brown, right, of Precept Wine, takes the Fender Blender for a spin as she blends a three-berry smoothie at The Kitchen Second Harvest food bank booth at Crave Food and Drink Celebration on June 16 at CenterPlace on Mirabeau Parkway in Spokane Valley. Jandyl Doak, left, and Sam Preisinger, of The Kitchen, encourage Brown to keep pedaling. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley City Council plans to move forward with its sponsorship of the Crave Northwest event for a second year.

City Council entered a partnership with Vision Marketing and Crave NW culinary director Adam Hegsted for the inaugural Crave NW event last June at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center.

The city sponsored the inaugural event for $50,000 and received a portion of those funds back through CenterPlace Regional Event Center rental fees.

Crave NW – which featured more than 40 chefs, exhibitions, grand tastings and events that showcased local food and produce – in its first year attracted more than 2,000 people attending from 11 states and Canada.

Ticket sales are strong again this year for Crave NW, which is scheduled for July 12-15 to take advantage of warmer weather and to allow time for west lawn improvements at CenterPlace Regional Event Center.

Hegsted said the event will again include the Seafood Bash, Foods from Around the World, the International Chef forum with demonstrations as well as expand availability of tastings for craft beer and wine.

Crave NW will host 20 additional chefs and triple the amount of food for the evening grand tasting events, which feature artisan food, breweries and distilleries from the Northwest.

“This year, there will be more chefs to choose from,” Hegsted said. “There were a lot of people that weren’t interested in participating in a first-year event because it’s hard to explain what it is. This year, we’ll have more people that are excited to be a part of it. So that’s nice.”

Celebrity chefs are confirming participation including Atlanta-based chef Hugh Acheson, who was a guest judge on the reality television series “Top Chef.”

The idea behind Crave NW was to build and celebrate the culinary and hospitality industry in the Pacific Northwest, said Hegsted, who is owner of the Eat Food Group and several local restaurants including the Gilded Unicorn, Wandering Table and the recently opened Incrediburger and Eggs.

“We wanted to showcase that, show it off a little bit and create a really fun event,” Hegsted said. “We loved the idea of having people come and celebrate what we have here in the Northwest.”

Spokane Valley completed an economic development study in 2016 to increase tourism by adding new events and festivals that complement ValleyFest.

The city found Crave NW is bringing greater awareness to the Valley, providing jobs and generating additional spending at hotels and retail stores. It also provides seed capital for Crave NW until it can become a self-sustaining event.

“We feel strongly that the culinary event will continue to grow and become self-sustaining over the next few years,” said Lesli Brassfield, economic development specialist for Spokane Valley at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “We know public interest in food tourism is steadily increasing, and we feel like this is a unique opportunity to highlight the products and restaurants in our area as well as the beauty of Spokane Valley.”

Vision Marketing received $30,000 through the city’s 2018 lodging tax grant funds. The city plans to supplement $20,000 from its economic development marketing fund.

Councilwoman Brandi Peetz said she noticed there was only one Spokane Valley restaurant that participated in the event last year and while it’s great to have area partners, she would like to see more local restaurant involvement if the city is sponsoring the event.

“I realize we have a lot of fast food restaurants, but I would really like to see more of a Spokane Valley presence,” she said. “Especially if we are going to be putting that amount of money into an event I would like to showcase the Valley a little bit more.”

Peetz said a concern with last year’s event was that it lacked family-friendly activities because it was 21 and over.

Brassfield said organizers are looking at broadening the event to include some family-friendly activities such as a learning area or farmer’s market concept.

Councilman Arne Woodard said he hopes the event can draw more fine-quality restaurants to the Valley.

“I think this is going to bring about the transformation of the Valley to get a couple fine-quality restaurants that will look in the Valley to go ahead and move out here,” he said. “So the more successful this is, the more draw there is, it shows the Valley is in desire of above that intermediary stage (of restaurants).”

Spokane Valley Economic Development Manager Mike Basinger said a participating chef from Crave NW last year is opening a lunch restaurant at Pinecroft Business Park.

“So, it does show that they see the Valley, they are there, they start to think about opening up their businesses in our city,” he said. “I think that does happen organically.”

City officials will decide to renew the Crave NW sponsorship at its March 13 council meeting.