As the new executive chef of the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort, Steven Walk is used to doing things in a big way. For more than 20 years, he has risen through the ranks of large-scale operations, including national hotels like Embassy Suites, Marriott and Holiday Inn. He's also worked at Walla Walla Community College and St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, which also hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp.
Most recently, he was Washington State University's associate director of culinary operations, leading a team of six executive chefs, 60 staff members and 900 student employees charged with feeding a population of 8,000 hungry students daily.
"The day-to-day job at the casino," says Walk, "isn't all that different from [my] position at WSU. I have a lot of flexibility for creativity and working several styles of cuisine." That includes the casino's nine eateries, including the flagship restaurant, Chinook Steak, Pasta & Spirits.
"I was intrigued by working at the casino in part due to its reputation and my personal experiences," says Walk, who, living in Pullman, had frequented the casino's dining establishments for years. "We have property here by the lake that we wanted to eventually move to."
The plan at Chinook, says Walk, is to move forward slowly with slight modifications to the menu while "building upon the previous chef's foundation of using as many local ingredients as possible."
Chinook's current menu features clams from Hood Canal, native northern pike and Pacific king salmon. The primary meat providers for the restaurant are Snake River Farms, located in southern Idaho, which partners with central Washington's Double R Ranch. Together they produce a highly prized American equivalent of Japanese kurobuta pork from Berkshire stock, as well as Kobe beef from wagyu cattle.
For Inlander Restaurant Week, Chinook will serve Snake River Farms' Berkshire pork — which Walk says is one of the best breeds available. His osso bucco comes with fettuccine, red wine sauce and both an herby gremolata and a thick bell pepper chimichurri.
Each course of Walk's menu includes a salad and bread option, as well as dessert, all housemade, many featuring local ingredients.
The Northwest salad option for Restaurant Week, for example, combines Washington apples, Oregon cheddar, huckleberries and mixed greens with toasted walnuts and honey vinaigrette. Huckleberries also appear in dessert — cheesecake with whipped sour cream and almond pesto.
Other entrée options include spaghetti in a slow-cooked sauce with pancetta, sausage and onions, as well as a hearty version of chicken Alfredo.
Restaurant Week, says Walk, gives Chinook an opportunity to showcase some of its more recent menu changes: "We chose to participate in Restaurant Week for the great exposure it provides." ♦