To view all of the 2019 difference makers, click here.
Thanks to a handful of innovative chefs, Spokane is a city considered a culinary up-and-comer.
Among them is Adam Hegsted, who continues to open restaurants and businesses and invest his time and effort in the Spokane area and North Idaho.
Under the umbrella of Eat Good Group, Hegsted’s properties are Wandering Table and Yards Bruncheon in Kendall Yards; Gilded Unicorn and Incrediburger and Eggs downtown; Farmhouse Restaurant and Silo Barn in Ponderay/Sandpoint; Doughlicious Bakery, Le Catering Co., Vital Fit Meals and Eat Good Cafe in Liberty Lake; Crave Northwest in Spokane Valley; and Republic Kitchen and Taphouse in Post Falls.
If that weren’t enough to keep the James Beard Award-nominee busy, this year saw growth for Hegsted with the third annual Crave food festival in the Spokane Valley; the relaunch of Ella’s Supper Club at the Montvale Event Center downtown; the opening of Pocket Bar steps away from the Montvale; and a soft launch of his online-only venture, Share Farms.
“With all of our projects, we’re trying to make them better and hone in on the process and make certain that the business side is working well,” Hegsted said during an interview at Wandering Table, his most celebrated restaurant. “We want to make certain that it’s a great experience when a customer comes into our restaurant.”
Crave Food and Drink Celebration had 50% more people this year and was a big success, said Aaron Fish, Eat Good Group’s corporate chef.
“We focused on making Crave the event of the year,” said Fish, who has worked with Hegsted for six years. “I really like the brand that we have created – sourcing responsibly and creating tasty dishes with those ingredients.”
The Spokesman-Review partnered with Crave for the first time in June and focused the event on successful women in the culinary industry.
In October, Hegsted revitalized the Montvale Event Center’s Ella’s Supper Club, which closed in 2008, and his plans for Ella’s is a monthly live jazz evening with dinner service at Spokane real estate developer Jerry Dicker’s property.
“A lot of the stuff we do is based around nostalgia in food and dining, and Ella’s is a perfect example of this. We run the catering at Montvale Event Center, so it’s a natural fit for us to do something there where it was Ella’s Supper Club before,” Hegsted said. “The food is classic, like prime rib and roast salmon, with a focus on high-quality ingredients, and we mash it up with fantastic jazz music. It’s a fun and cool vibe in there.”
Not all has succeeded for Eat Good Group this year. Pocket Bar, a local beer and wine bar offering savory and sweet hand pies next door to the Montvale Event Center, opened in July and is likely to shutter.
“Pocket Bar, we’re probably going to close. We’re always learning and trying to figure out what the best thing is,” Hegsted said. “With each place, we try to create a destination restaurant, and Pocket Bar, while it is good, it is more of a beer and wine bar, and that’s just not really what we do.
“We want to create something special, so we’re thinking of turning it into a Mediterranean-style restaurant or Middle Eastern, something that offers a different type of cuisine that isn’t here or represented a lot or that well.”
Emily Crawford, who has been with Eat Good Group for two years, remains optimistic and will lead the transition and move of the wholesale bakery, Doughlicious, to downtown from Liberty Lake.
“We have been playing around with a few new things. We’re a family and, as a family, we all know we are only able to show the love in our food if the hands that put it out are loved,” Crawford said.
Launched in July with local entrepreneurs Vince Peak and Erik Kobe, Share Farms is still a work in progress for Hegsted. Their idea is to bring local foods to as many people as possible via online ordering.
“What we’re working on currently is finding more vendors and farmers who are able to get their products to us so that we can ship it out. We need to get the word out more and are working on a big marketing push planned for February,” Hegsted said. “There are still a lot of good products available now and year-round, such as meat, dairy, eggs, squash, apples, pears and onions.”
Hegsted said he remains in the area and continues to invest because this is home.
“After graduating from culinary school at age 20, I lived in Seattle for a few years. I came back. I thought that I wanted to work at restaurants in Portland and Seattle and make my name there,” he said, “but I really love the area and being here.”.
Hegsted said when he came back to Spokane, there wasn’t much happening in the culinary scene.
“As chefs, we got together and talked about things that could change and how we could make a difference,” Hegsted recalled. “As everyone continues to keep doing a little bit and a little bit, Spokane has become this emerging food scene.
“I love being here, and we have a great opportunity here. It’s sort of still the wild, wild West. There aren’t a lot of restaurants, but there are a lot of opportunities to develop. There are still a lot of untapped areas.”
Hegsted said Eat Good Group will probably open more Incrediburger-style restaurants in Spokane Valley and Coeur d’Alene.
“Our main projects right now are corporate development, making certain that we’re financially healthy and successful and making sure that our programs are for our employees’ benefit and longevity,” Hegsted said.
Hegsted said he supports the minimum wage increase coming next year that will boost such wages to $13.50 per hour.
“It does cost money, just like with benefits, but it’s for the best,” he said. “It’s great for the economy, and it’s great for the city. It’s needed. The minimum wage sat too low for too long. The increase is fast because it’s been so long.”
Hegsted predicts more focus on what he calls “uber-ethnic food, very specific to a region.”
“Instead of just Indian food, it will be northern Indian food, same with Thai and Mexican cuisine,” he said. “That will continue to evolve and get better. I think people want that authenticity.”
Hegsted is proud of Spokane’s growth. “When I go to national events or I go to talk to other chefs around the country, they know what Spokane’s about, and that has been a really cool thing instead of ‘Spokane where?’ It’s an emerging food scene with some cool things happening here.”
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.