The Crave! festival is back with a lineup of celebrity and local chefs sharing signature flavors at tasting events, demos and more

click to enlarge The seafood bash at Crave! is July 12.
The seafood bash at Crave! is July 12.

With more than 10 food-filled events across four days, the second annual Crave! festival is a gourmand's paradise. The celebration of food and drink in Spokane Valley from July 12-15 offers locals the chance to hear from celebrity chefs, taste local cuisine, sample specialty cocktails and everything in between.

Crave! is the brainchild of Spokane chef Adam Hegsted, who collaborated with Spokane-based Vision Marketing to produce the festival. Hegsted's presence is well known in the region's dining scene as chef and owner of Eat Good Group, which includes a gaggle of restaurants including Wandering Table, Gilded Unicorn, IncrediBurger & Eggs and Le Catering.

His initial hope when launching Crave! was that it would become a catalyst in the local culinary movement.

"I thought it would be a good way to rally around celebrating everything that we have around here," Hegsted says.

Crave! is a nonprofit organization, and a portion of money made from the festival supports local food banks Second Harvest and Spokane Valley Partners.

For the festival's second inception, a variety of events are planned to tickle the taste buds of attendees. Patrons can attend a seafood bash (July 12) and other sampling events themed around international cuisine (July 13), brunch (July 15) and barbecue grilling (July 14).

In addition to these main meal events, the festival also offers two grand tastings, three-hour sessions during which guests can meet fellow food fanatics while perusing local vendors, eating bite-sized samples and watching on-stage chef demos.

More than 50 chefs from the Inland Northwest and around the U.S. are attending this year's Crave! to create, chat and teach. Names on the guest chef list include Food Network regulars alongside local restaurant owners. On-stage demos throughout the four-day event give chefs the chance to share what they're passionate about, what makes a restaurant successful, their favorite dishes and more.

Many chefs who attended last year, as well as first-time guests this time around, are professionals Hegsted has watched and admired throughout his career. He's excited to share these chefs' expertise with festival attendees.

"Having them in my town and in the place where I work, showcasing and showing off a little bit, being able to work with them and collaborating — that was really amazing to me," he says.

Crave! co-host Vision Marketing hopes to exceed last year's benchmark of around 2,000 attendees; event venue CenterPlace Regional Event Center has space to accommodate many more.

New events to 2018's Crave! include an after-party following the Fire & Smoke tasting on Saturday evening, with music by DJ Unifest and local bartenders mixing featured cocktails.

With plans for Crave! to continue in the coming years, Hegsted hopes the event can continue helping connect members of the local culinary community with each other and their customers by providing a space to share ideas and pursue betterment.

"To keep the progress moving forward and to get people excited about what is here; what's happening, that is kind of the bigger picture. That's what I want out of Crave!," Hegsted says. ♦

Crave! • July 12-15; event times vary • $35-$75/tasting event; $65-$311/festival packages • CenterPlace Regional Event Center • 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley •

Meet Some of the Chefs

Hugh Acheson, Atlanta

Restaurants: Five & Ten, The National, Empire State South, Spiller Park Coffee, Achie's

A prominent chef in Georgia's dining scene, Acheson is most widely known as a judge on Food Network's intense cooking competition show, Top Chef.

Brian Duffy, Philadelphia

Projects: Duffified Live, Duffified Spice

A Food Network regular and star of Bar Rescue on Spike TV, Duffy's straight-forward attitude is well known around the Philadelphia restaurant scene and nationwide.

Aarthi Sampath, Seattle

Restaurants: Kukree

Chef Sampath took the winning title on Food Network's Chopped in 2016. She's also appeared on the network's Beat Bobby Flay where she came out on top in a competition with the famous chef.

Edouardo Jordan, Seattle

Restaurants: Salare, JuneBaby

This two-time 2018 James Beard Award-winning chef is well known in the Pacific Northwest dining scene for his two critically acclaimed Seattle restaurants.

Matthias Merges, Chicago

Restaurants: A10, Old Irving Brewing, Billy Sunday

Chef Merges has gained notoriety nationwide for his award-winning restaurants. He's also the founder of Folkart, a culinary management group in Chicago.

Felipe Hernandez, Union Gap, Wash.

Restaurants: Los Hernandez

Chef Hernandez is a 2018 James Beard Award winner who's nationally known for his handmade tamales.