INLANDER: How long have you been cooking?
Curtis: I’ve been cooking 20 years now. Hartford, Connecticut, worked there for a little while. Virginia Beach, worked there for a little while. University of Montana, worked there for a while. Got my culinary degree down in Arizona and then moved up here.
And is Restaurant Week something you’ve ever done before?
Hicks: I’ve lived in three or four different cities that have had a restaurant week and I like that this is opening here. Spokane is a community that tends to, when there are community things, to get behind them. We’re a proud community. You can get a lot of cool food here. There’s a lot of fun stuff for us to play with in Spokane.
What challenges did the fixed-menu present?
Curtis: There wasn’t a whole lot of challenge, quite honestly. We have such a large, vast menu to play with. It was just trying, initially, to stay within the price-point, but really, a lot of our dishes are already nice and easy to figure out at that price point. So, really it’s been a lot of fun.
Are you featuring mainly menu items that you already have or are you featuring anything new?
Curtis: Little bit of both. We have Cougar Gold salad which is kind of a signature dish that we have here. You’ve got your spinach, your golden cheese, a honey lavender dressing that goes over the top.
Hicks: When we were putting together the menu we wanted to feature what we source locally. Cougar Gold salad has apples from Washington in it. It has cheese from Washington State. We have cake that’s made from Fred Fleming’s flour, The Shepard’s Grain.
Since this restaurant is in a hotel, you must see a lot of people from out of town. Are you hoping to appeal to a more local crowd?
Hicks: In my mind this is an opportunity to create community. We’re not your typical hotel restaurant. We would be a stand-alone, award-winning restaurant without our hotel here. We have a 105-item dinner menu. So we have something for everyone. We often do price-fixed menus for different events.
How do you manage such a large dinner menu?
Curtis: Realistically, it’s surrounding myself with good team members that like to have fun with cooking. The kitchen crew is absolutely phenomenal. Some people might get a little frustrated with how much scratch cooking we do, but if you know what you are doing, it’s really fun.
Which featured item are you most looking forward to?
Curtis: Quinsotto is definitely a nice one. Gluten-free, dairy-free. Most people hear that and they’re like “ack,” but try it — coconut milk, three different kinds of quinoa in there, lentils are in there, very colorful. Very spring-y, the flavors that come out. Very nice.