Rory Allen kind of fell into restaurant and chef life by accident. When he was younger, Allen took a dishwasher job in Bellingham, the only job he could find at the time, to get out of Spokane. But after working around and taking in the aromas of good food every day, he decided he wanted to learn how to make that food himself. After 10 years away, Allen returned to Spokane curious to see what opportunities were available to him in his hometown's culinary scene. Today, he loves being immersed in Spokane's restaurant culture and enjoys creative freedom in the Remedy Kitchen & Tavern, where he recently came aboard as executive chef.
INLANDER: What is your culinary vision and philosophy?
ALLEN: I try to highlight the best ingredients I can get my hands on and be as local as I can. I want to represent the actual ingredients and not get too caught up in complicating things. I want the clean ingredients to speak for themselves. I've also made a name for myself working with duck. It's definitely a passion of mine to learn to cook it properly and in a thousand different ways.
How do you challenge yourself to stay creative in the kitchen?
I just try to pull ideas from every place and person that I can and establish creativity as a team effort in the Remedy kitchen. You can pull ideas from everybody around you, and then it all comes together in the end to create something delicious.
When you are able to dine out, what do you enjoy and look for?
Anybody playing with game meats or proteins off the beaten path, whether it's upscale fare or simply a wild boar burger. And chicken wings. Hogwash has amazing chicken wings, but I usually end up cooking my own in my backyard.
What's special about the region's culinary scene right now, emerging from the pandemic?
I think this is kind of a second blank slate for Spokane. A lot of locations opened up after the shutdown with new concepts, and some concepts got hit really hard and changed themselves into something totally new that Spokane needed or was craving. We now have a unique opportunity to try out some new concepts in places that were once something popular but didn't survive this past year.
What are the biggest challenges you faced over the past year, and how did you overcome them?
First, sourcing ingredients... At all! There wasn't much of anything available that we'd been used to ordering, so we had to pivot and rewrite our menus to fit what we could get. And staffing, which is what everybody's dealing with right now. We're constantly adjusting our hours and menus to stay open and not run out of things.
What was the most crucial thing you learned during the pandemic about being in the hospitality industry that will carry you into the future in a sustainable way?
How to create a culture that both staff and customers really want to be a part of and stick with it through difficult times.
What are you most looking forward to during Restaurant Week?
We are highlighting peaches a lot this year, since they'll be in season. It will be interesting to see fresh peaches and corn and tomatoes on people's menus! They normally didn't get to use these ingredients, because they had a late winter/early spring menu during Restaurant Week. Now it's going to be the height of the Inland Northwest's produce season! As much as we dread getting our butts kicked for 12 days straight, we'll get to work with food and fresh ingredients that we are happier cooking.
Inlander Restaurant Week 2021 continues through Saturday, Aug. 28. Find three-course menus for all 40-plus participating venues at InlanderRestaurantWeek.com.