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Fresh faces in new places: Seven Inland Northwest chefs find themselves leading new kitchens and concepts

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 6, 2020

By Kris Kilduff For The Spokesman-Review

This year has been one of uncertainty and perhaps nowhere more so than in the service industry. Chefs and restaurateurs have been fighting at the frontlines as seating has downsized, food sourcing has dwindled, and takeout and delivery have become a tool that is teeming with the masses.

With adversity comes an opportunity for change, and we caught up with seven chefs who are no strangers to the Inland Northwest and have recently found themselves at the helm of a new ship.

Chef Noreen Hiskey, Inland Curry

1321 W. Third Ave., inlandcurry.com

What restaurants did you work for previously?

Unlike most chefs, I am a home cook who is new to the industry, and up until a few years ago, I hadn’t stepped into a professional kitchen before 2018. I, however, have been food blogging and taking pictures for years and had a successful run of pop-up dinners at D’bali Asian Bistro.

What got you into cooking?

I come from a family full of foodies, and my father ran a cafeteria for a major Mumbai hospital in the 1980s and early ’90s. We traveled a lot growing up and would gather exotic ingredients in our suitcases.

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?

Roasting and grinding whole spices, making different spices and incorporating them into Indian cuisine, mainly goat and lamb.

What currently is your favorite food?

I rarely eat the same thing over and over. I prefer variety and will try just about anything.

What is your favorite food city?

My hometown of Pune, India. I love the diversity, from street food to five-star dining. It’s a chance to eat my nostalgic favorites but also try new places with nearly 20,000 restaurants at my fingertips.

Where do you plan to take Inland Curry?

Inland Curry offers a weekly rotating menu of Indian cuisine out of Feast World Kitchen. Expect more than chicken tikka masala. I hope to take my customers on a journey around the various regions of India while keeping things seasonally inspired with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

Chef Jordan Obermeyer, Durkin’s Liquor Bar

415 W. Main Ave., (509) 863-9501, durkinsliquorbar.com

What restaurants did you work for previously?

Most recently, I was working for some friends at Top of Tacoma in Western Washington and then after moving back to Spokane have spent the last year and a half under chef Travis Dickinson at Cochinito Taqueria.

What got you into cooking?

My inspiration for cooking really came from hanging out in dive bars and playing hardcore shows with my band. I noticed how often the food was bland, and working in a kitchen gave me the ability and flexible hours to tour with my band. Convenience turned into passion. I’m naturally competitive, and I started soaking up every little thing I could.

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?

Right now, I’m obsessed with cured meats and charcuterie. Duck, funky cheeses and, if we are talking within the last few days, halibut collar.

What currently is your favorite food?

We are lacking it in Spokane, but when I travel, I can’t get enough Korean BBQ. Surf and turf, Galbi and especially saewu gui, which is a spicy gochujang shrimp.

What is your favorite food city?

I love a lot of northwest cities. Seattle, Portland, but my favorite is Vancouver, B.C. There is such a unique culture of food with inspirations from all over and putting its own little Canadian twist on it.

Where do you plan to take Durkin’s?

Durkin’s feels like a great home for me because my passion lies in simple comfort foods I can experiment with – I’m really into Spanish and Moroccan flavors, and I can’t wait to work some of that into this menu.

Chef Nico Salakar, Market Street Pizza

2721 N. Market St., (509) 822-7874, marketstreetpizzaspokane.com

What restaurants did you work for previously?

I love diversity, and I’ve worked in sushi, Greek and Afghani. I worked under executive chef Jason Colabove at Crush in Chico, Calif., and then most recently was developing the bar program here locally at Clover.

What got you into cooking?

My father was a chef, so it was in my blood. I was cooking with my dad as soon as I could walk. I love breaking rules, and there is no better place to do it than in the kitchen.

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?

Chiles. I am always a fan of spice, but, with the weather turning cold, I find myself using chiles in every dish I make. Chiles are so versatile, and every genetic has a completely different flavor profile.

What currently is your favorite food?

With the cold weather, definitely pho. My wife and I have it easily twice a week. Shoutout to Le’s Teriyaki & Pho!

What is your favorite food city?

San Francisco or Seattle. I love both city’s diversity.

Where do you plan to take Market Street Pizza?

I am lucky to work with Aaron Fiorini, who gives me room to play with whatever I like. My focus right now is trying to make everything 100% from scratch and seasonally influenced. A lot of people think of a pizzeria as just that, but we are trying to change that ideology and bring fun, exotic and well-thought-out food to our menu.

Chef Rory Allen, Remedy

3809 S. Grand Ave., (509) 443-4730, remedycrc.com

What restaurants did you work for previously?

I’d spent the last year at Durkin’s, but previously I worked at Wandering Table and the first eight years of my career at Boundary Bay Brewing in Bellingham. I also spend time working on my pop-up Duck Duck Food Truck.

What got you into cooking?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time cooking with my mom, specifically making her famous marinara together. Learning ingredients and seeing love transition to food created a passion for me to do the same.

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?

As I mentioned from my pop-up, I love duck. It’s such a succulent flavor and also a challenge in the techniques involved cooking it correctly. It’s something fun that you don’t see on every menu.

What currently is your favorite food?

Who doesn’t love ramen? Slurping up chewy noodles and sipping a hot, rich broth always can clear your mind and brings me an incredible sense of comfort.

What is your favorite food city?

My favorite food city is actually Spokane. This is because it is still very much a blank canvas with no rules. The restaurant scene is filled with creative chefs getting all their best ideas out there without being drowned out in an oversaturated market.

Where do you plan to take Remedy?

I am helping them to be a bit more on course with their original high-end tavern theme. Take their ingredients, preparations and platings to a higher level. That and maximizing the potential of their woodfired oven.

Chef Blake Kaba, 1898 Public House

2010 W. Waikiki Road, (509) 466-2121, kalispelgolf.com/dining

What restaurants did you work for previously?

I spent eight years running my uncle’s restaurant in Arizona. I’ve worked in a hotel in Alaska, as a private chef in wineries and breweries in Yakima and then spent three years as a chef at Twigs and Tortilla Union. Most recently, I opened Three Peaks in Spokane Tribe Casino and just left after three years.

What got you into cooking?

Growing up, my family was always big into making Albanian meals. Food brings people together and gives me an outlet for my creativity. I found that passion at an early age and never have left the industry.

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?

It’s always hard to pick just one, but I’ve been fun messing around with harissa, which is a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste. I love the flavors it brings to anything you add it to.

What currently is your favorite food?

Is it cheating to say tapas-style cuisine? Right now, I take any opportunity I get to try various dishes without being full off one plate.

What is your favorite food city?

Growing up in New York City, you become spoiled. Having that opportunity to be in the scene and try all these amazing restaurants is by far the best. I love going to visit and seeing how the culinary industry grows year after year.

Where do you plan to take 1898?

Focusing on freshness, uniqueness and supporting local have always been important factors, and we continue to make those highlights. We are bringing unique flavors while also offering comfort dishes.

Chef Mary Weaver, Gilded Unicorn

110 S. N. Monroe St., (509) 309-3698, gildedunicorn.com

What restaurants did you work for previously?

I’ve worked under Adam Hegsted for eight years, most recently at the Coeur d’Alene Casino at Red Tail. When Gilded Unicorn needed a new chef, I was more than happy to make the move into Spokane.

What got you into cooking?

Growing up, my parents owned a sports bar in Post Falls. I spent a lot of time flipping burgers and frying everything imaginable. I went to school and got a degree to be a veterinarian but always have had food in my roots. You realize it’s more than a hobby when you spend your spare time reading recipes and watching food documentaries.

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?

Maybe it’s the season, but I’m big right now on parsnips. I love root vegetables, but I’ve been experimenting with them in comfort food favorites like shepherd’s pie and even recently made a parsnip and rosemary ice cream.

What currently is your favorite food?

Vindaloo. I love curry, and I even make my own garlic naan bread. It’s my guilty pleasure on a cold day.

What is your favorite food city?

I love Portland. If you’re a chef who loves Americana comfort food done upscale, Portland is Disneyland. Fried chicken, food trucks, so much to explore and get inspiration from.

Where do you plan to take Gilded Unicorn?

Unicorn has a variety of menu items that are already really popular, so I’m getting to put my touch on recipes that already are a bit iconic. Then working on a fresh sheet to develop the more whimsical side of the restaurant.

Chef Amanda Hillmann, Globe Bar & Kitchen

204 N. Division St., (509) 443-4014, globespokane.com

What restaurants did you work for previously?

I worked under Adam Hegsted at Wandering Table and chef Molly Patrick at Blackbird. Their influence definitely helped me define what I consider my style of cooking. Globe will be a perfect chance for me to showcase that to our city.

What got you into cooking?

I’ve always taken my real-life experiences and forged them into my cooking. I grew up in an Asian restaurant, cooking at an early age, working close with my family. Nothing has changed. I still work close with my mother and have been taking experience from having a child to create my company modernistcooks.com doing cooking classes for children!

What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?

It changes all the time, but right now I’d have to say lime leaf. It’s crazy how much flavor you can get with such a simple ingredient for curry or soups, even stir fry.

What currently is your favorite food?

I’m in love with carbonara. Fresh pasta, cured egg yolk, parmesan. Nothing makes you feel the love in cooking more than a bowl of pasta.

What is your favorite food city?

San Francisco. It doesn’t get better than a city that is bustling with authentic Asian, fresh seafood and modern American cuisine.

Where do you plan to take the Globe?

The Globe has completely rebranded and allowed me to take the kitchen in my own direction. I have a great team of chefs who love to create. Taking the vibrancy and plating of fine-dining restaurants and turning it into something anyone can enjoy.

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