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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Running Tab: A word that never goes out of style – inspiration

The Spokesman-Review features editor Don Chareunsy, chef Anita M. Lo, chef Mareya Ibrahim and filmmaker Joanna James pose for a photo after The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club Main Stage program at Crave on July 13 at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokesman-Review features editor Don Chareunsy, chef Anita M. Lo, chef Mareya Ibrahim and filmmaker Joanna James pose for a photo after The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club Main Stage program at Crave on July 13 at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Wake up. Eat. Work. Eat again. Sleep. Repeat.

Life can sometimes be monotonous even in the best of circumstances, so it’s a nice boost when an unexpected source of inspiration arises. And, in this instance, it was four.

During the 2019 Crave Food and Drink Celebration from July 11-13 at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley, The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club Main Stage featured four incredible and inspiring women.

Malaysian-American chef Anita M. Lo has a Michelin star, handily defeated Mario Batali on “Iron Chef America” and was the first female chef at a state dinner at the White House. She also has one of the kindest hearts you’ll ever encounter and is living her true life “out and proud,” as she said during my Main Stage interview with her.

Deborah Di Bernardo owns Roast House Coffee and First Avenue Coffee in Spokane and is an Italian-American dynamo. She is all about serving a damn good cup of coffee, and Spokane is lucky to have her in our presence. She recently traveled to Rwanda and learned about the country’s female coffee growers. We’ll share her travels soon in The Spokesman-Review.

Filmmaker Joanna James’ “A Fine Line” brings to light discrimination and obstacles women face in the culinary world. Her mother, Valerie James, is among the female chefs featured in “A Fine Line,” and James updated the film after the #MeToo movement made headlines. She traveled here from New York while 8 1/2 months pregnant for the Main Stage. Talk about dedication and passion.

And Mareya Ibrahim is a wonder woman who can and does it all: The Orange County, California-based Ibrahim is a chef, entrepreneur, nutrition coach, author and inventor, and her latest book is titled “Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive.” She is the epitome of thriving and living life to the fullest – all while having fun and a sense of humor.

To find inspiration is a blessing, and I was blessed fourfold. Thank you, Anita, Deborah, Joanna and Mareya.


Speaking of diversity, Monday was my first day as the new features editor at The Spokesman-Review after being hired as food editor on April 29, and I could not be more excited to work with this features team comprised of men and women in their 20s through 50s.

We also are wives, mothers, Asian, LGBTQ, vegetarian and vegan producing five weekly features sections – food (on Wednesdays), health (Thursdays), arts and entertainment (Fridays), family (Saturdays) and features (Sundays). God bless diversity, and here’s to representing everyone as much as possible.


I’ve written a lot about Crave recently, and this should be it for a while – aside from my interview with outgoing guest chef Brandon Rosen in this Sunday’s features section. (Rosen competed on the most-recent Season 16 of “Top Chef” on Bravo.)

It occurred to me – or, rather, I was told – that the concept of walk-arounds, aka dine-arounds, is fairly new to Spokane and is not the same as Pig Out in the Park, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next month. With walk-arounds like Crave, attendees pay one price, and unlimited small plates and libations (cocktails, beer and wine) are included.

Some people might balk at the $80 ticket for Crave’s Seafood Bash or Foods From Around the World, but think about how much it costs for a nice dinner at a restaurant. There’s the appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert and drinks. It all adds up quickly. At a walk-around, it’s one, all-inclusive price for a special experience that can include a few dozen chefs and restaurants and a few dozen options of wines, beer and cocktails.

For a varied and wide-ranging experience, walk-arounds really are worth it.

Running Tab responses

Thank you to the responses to my June 26 Running Tab column titled “In defense of Spokane’s culinary scene.” The majority of you welcomed me to Spokane and thanked me for shining a light on what is good and could be improved in Spokane’s food-and-beverage industry.

One common criticism was my choice in restaurants my first two months on the job, and now I have a to-dine list that is longer based on expert Spokane residents. Thank you! I consider myself a Las Vegas expert on its entertainment, nightlife and restaurant scene because I worked there from 2008-2019. Yes, 11 years.

Despite being a Gonzaga alumnus and traveling to Spokane a few times a year for about the past decade, the food scene is nearly a blank canvas to me. I certainly didn’t cover the bases in my first two months here, and I probably won’t in two decades.

And with my focus now shifting to four other features sections alongside food, the challenge is even greater. Fortunately, challenges are a good thing, and they can be even better with assistance – in this case, recommendations from The Spokesman-Review’s readers.

A nitpick

The majority of people I’ve met since starting this job as food editor have pronounced restaurateur as “restauranteur.” There is no “n” in the word restaurateur.

From my first Running Tab column May 24 because it bears repeating: Let’s dive deep into Spokane’s food scene together. Let’s enjoy the classics, as well as discover new and exciting restaurants and menu offerings. I welcome your suggestions at Please reach out!

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