Big news in the local dining scene: Pioneering Spokane chef and restaurateur Jeremy Hansen, who owns three Spokane restaurants with wife Kate Hansen, is leaving Spokane next week to take a job helming a restaurant in Philadelphia.
News of the chef's move, and the couple's plans to sell all three of their restaurants — Inland Pacific Kitchen, Smoke & Mirrors Saloon and Hogwash Whiskey Den — broke this morning on the latest episode of the locally produced podcast Amalgam.
In the episode, Hansen chats with podcast host Corbin Mendenhall about how the opportunity arose — Hansen was essentially recruited for an executive chef position — and what his bittersweet departure means for the Spokane food scene.
"For me, leaving is hard because the part we played in growing the food scene here," Hansen reflects. "There's a lot of promise and it's growing rapidly, and the food scene is getting better everyday. It's hard to leave what I've created and leave it in the middle of this growth spurt. But I'm also proud to say that I had a part in helping it get there, along with others... I'm satisfied with what we got to do here and what the community allowed us to do, and the support we got from Spokane.
"Spokane, keep doing what you're doing and keep supporting the local restaurants and keep going out and buying from the chef-owned places."
Chef Hansen departs on Aug. 5, while Kate Hansen plans to stay in Spokane to oversee the transition of their three restaurants to new owners. He hints that one of the eateries has unofficially already found a new owner, and that one of his former sous chefs will be taking over the kitchen at another.
Hansen didn't reveal the name of the Philadelphia restaurant he'll be heading to.
UPDATE: After what he says was a busy morning, we connected with Hansen this afternoon to get additional details about his pending departure, and the future of his family’s three restaurants.
Hansen says he expects that all three will remain open, mostly business as usual, until the sale of each goes through and new owners begin to transition in. He notes that plans for Smoke & Mirrors Saloon, which he debuted in the former Santé spot this spring, include changing the menu concept and restaurant name.
“We’re hoping new people carry on traditions of quality in food and service, and so far the one that is in the middle of transaction now is going to do a really good job on that,” Hansen says.
As for his next step, Hansen is heading to Philadelphia on Aug. 5, and starts his new position as executive chef at an existing Philadelphia restaurant on Aug. 15. He can’t name his new employer, but hopes to be able to share that detail soon.
In reflection on his departure from Spokane, after he and Kate opened their flagship restaurant Santé more than a decade ago, Hansen says this:
“I feel good about it.... and I’m excited for the future and what we get to go do, but I’m sad we’re leaving our roots and what we’ve done for Spokane. I’m also sad to leave in the middle of its renaissance, if you will; the next three to five years looks really promising with growth and the restaurant culture popping off. Being in the middle of that [over] the last decade has been fantastic and it’s sad to not be in the middle of it anymore. But the opportunity in Philly is a once-in-a-lifetime thing I’d regret if I passed it up, and I don’t know I want to do that. I’m satisfied with what we accomplished here, though we will miss it. It’s bittersweet for sure.”