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Chef Anita Lo, ‘A Fine Line’ director Joanna James to headline 2019 Crave Main Stage

A second-generation Malaysian American chef who defeated Mario Batali on Season 1 of “Iron Chef America” and a filmmaker who has created a documentary about the struggles that female chefs have faced in the culinary industry are two of the headliners on the Main Stage at the third annual Crave Food and Drink Celebration July 11-13 at CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley.

Programming for this year’s Crave Main Stage is focused on women in the culinary industry, and chef Anita Lo, a Michigan native, is a fitting choice. Lo, who has a degree in French literature from Columbia University and requested to go fishing while in town for Crave, was named by Food & Wine Magazine in 2001 as one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America.

Lo interned with top French chefs Guy Savoy and Michel Rostang while attending culinary school l’Ecole Ritz-Escoffier in Paris, and in 2000 opened her first restaurant, Annisa, in New York’s Greenwich Village, with business partner Jennifer Scism. Annisa remained in business for 17 years, overcoming a fire in 2009 and reopening in 2010.

In 2005, TV audiences witnessed Lo’s superior cooking skills when she competed in a mushroom battle against Batali in the first season of “Iron Chef America.” She soundly defeated the Seattle-born chef by a score of 54-45 and is the first challenger to win on “Iron Chef America.”

Four years later, Lo competed on the first season of “Top Chef Masters,” finished fourth among 25 contestants and earned $20,000 for her selected charity. In 2015, Lo was the first female guest chef to cook for a White House state dinner, and her book “Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One” was published by Knopf in 2018.

Sharing the Main Stage at Crave with Lo is documentary filmmaker Joanna James, who will be screening and discussing her work “A Fine Line,” which explores why less than 7% of lead chefs and restaurateurs are women when, traditionally, women have always had the central role in the kitchen.

With perspectives and experiences from chefs including Lidia Bastianich, Cat Cora and Valerie James – Joanna James’ mother – “A Fine Line” addresses workplace harassment, equal pay, paid parental leave, career advancement and more. A trailer of “A Fine Line” will be shown at Crave, followed by a brief panel discussion about the disparity.

Crave attendees can pick up tickets for a complimentary screening and panel discussion of “A Fine Line” at the Bing Crosby Theater the evening of July 13. For more information about the documentary, go to afinelinemovie.com.

This year’s lineup also includes Mareya Ibrahim, “The Fit Foodie Chef,” and more Main Stage participants will be announced soon. Crave – which was created by local chef and restaurateur Adam Hegsted (Wandering Table, Gilded Unicorn, Incrediburger & Eggs, Le Catering) and is in partnership with Newman Lake-based Vision Marketing – features four ticketed, VIP and walk-around tasting events next month:

Seafood Bash, July 11, 6-9 p.m., $75-$170

Fire and Smoke, July 12, 6-9 p.m., $65-$160

Grand Tasting, July 13, 12-4 p.m., $35-$110

Foods From Around the World, July 13, 6-9 p.m., $70-$165

Participating chefs (including three from Vancouver, B.C.) and restaurants at Crave, as well as Hegsted and his team, will be featured in the coming weeks in the Food section of The Spokesman-Review, and pop-up events also are scheduled during the three-day feast for foodies.

“I love seeing all the people and connecting with everyone. We have such a strong community here in the hospitality industry,” said Hegsted. “It’s really amazing to see everyone putting their best foot forward and showcasing what they do. We are sitting in such a hotbed of amazing producers, chefs, artisans, wineries, brewers and distillers, and to see them all at one place is something that really is exceptional.”

Crave, with the continuing goal of connecting the local culinary community and highlighting chefs, restaurateurs and food vendors in Spokane and the Pacific Northwest, was launched in June 2017.

“Awareness of Crave has grown since the first year, and tastemakers are coming on board earlier and easier. Spokane Valley also has made improvements to the venue that have allowed us to move the evening events down to the waterfall, allowing all to enjoy this wonderful feature of CenterPlace and Mirabeau Park,” said Tom Stebbins, who runs Vision Marketing with his wife, Karen Upchurch Stebbins.

“A newcomer or a veteran to the food scene will never have it better than Crave: 15 or more chefs in one location with wine or beer. You don’t have to think – just eat and drink! Crave is a social standup event, with great food and drinks and free parking, that puts the spotlight on the tastemakers of the region.”

For Hegsted, it’s about community.“Crave has always been about the people. As we grow, meet more people, get more connected and get people excited about something like this, it just keeps getting better. I am always in awe at the quality people are putting forth in our area.

“In the future, I want to meet more people, and I would like to see more. I want to get everyone involved and see all that the Northwest has to offer. There are just so many people I don’t know and would love to meet and hear their stories.”

The Spokesman-Review is partnering with Crave for the first time this year, and applications for 2019 Crave bloggers/social media ambassadors are being accepted through June 27, with decisions made by July 2. For more information about Crave, go to https://cravenw.com/.

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