Spokane is flooded with talented chefs, but each has their own unique flair that they bring to their kitchen. Chef Avont Grant, at No Li Brewhouse, has such a heart for giving back to the community. During the COVID-19 shut down, him and his team at No-Li were able to donate $40,000 to aid COVID-19 efforts and donating 1,100 meals to school children around Spokane.
We have had the opportunity to meet Chef Avont and try some of his creations and we are confident you’ll love them too, but we wanted to take a deeper dive to really get to know him better and learn about his journey.
Briefly share your education/culinary background?
I’m not technically trained as a chef, I didn’t study at an institute. I’ve been cooking since I was 9 years old. I trained under my grandmother every Sunday before church at a young age. She didn’t use instruments for measuring, it was always “a little of this and a little of that!” She taught me how to cook with love, and she taught me how to appreciate a skill that runs deep in our community. Growing up in Chicago I was a “Cupboard Cook”.. whatever was in the cupboard or refrigerator were my ingredients, I learned flavor profiles through trial and error! My family members were my best and worst critics.
I guess you can say I study at the University of Hard Knocks, and have been given the title of a professional cook.
How long have you lived in Spokane? What brought you here?
I have been living here in Spokane for almost 31 years, I arrived here with my older sister, younger brother, and my mom in 1989. Three days on the Amtrak train from Chicago, Illinois and let me tell you, it was an adventure. This opportunity brought me here as a teenage kid for a better life. I wasn’t sure I was totally signed up about leaving Chicago because I didn’t want to leave family and friends. It was a hard decision for my mother to make, but today I’m glad she did!
When opportunity knocks you have to open the door.
How did you end up working at No-Li?
After many years of tending bars in Spokane at various downtown establishments, I woke up one day and decided I needed a change. So, I applied for a cooking position 4 years ago because the hours were great, the people were great, and then I never left. I worked my way up to Sous chef and a year later the opportunity of running the kitchen presented itself to me! And here I am!
What inspires you?
Hmmm, I guess I inspire myself! I inspire myself daily to be a better person.. because I’m not promised tomorrow. I inspire myself to do things sometimes I don’t want to do. Life is a journey, a path that demands daily growth. If I can make today better than yesterday with my gifts and my skills I will continue to accomplish goals day after day.
What are you currently watching on tv?
To be honest, I’ve been binge-watching The Wire and the TV show Cheers. I know it’s a weird combo of television and not the expected selection of popular choice. But, it entertains me and keeps my mind stimulated during these times.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun?
Believe it or not, I enjoy cooking in the kitchen or in the backyard on the grill, sometimes I enjoy writing and concocting recipes with different ingredients. The kitchen is my happy place.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu at No-Li?
Right now I’ve been flirting with our Halibut Fish and Chips we sell every Friday. I’ve concocted a recipe that keeps the battered fish crispy and shares a crunch with every bit.
How often are you changing up the menu?
I don’t want to set myself in a box because the menu can change at any time… If dishes don’t work for our guest as I hoped or planned I won’t hesitate to change the menu. But we try to stay with the seasonal change by providing fresh ingredients.
What makes No-Li unique?
That’s a great question.. No-Li is unique in its own way… I mean you take a brewery, add good food, tasty beer and place it down by the river. While providing a positive culture for its community and team members. No-Li is unique because it creates multiple layers of flavor.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
My favorite part of what I do is having the ability to be creative, and not have limitations. The ability to walk into work and share the things I love with others.
Where do you like to eat around Spokane?
That’s a really tough question because I enjoy all types of food… I mean, I love food! And there are so many places in Spokane to choose from. I’m a solo-dolo type of person. I can be happy enjoying a meal by myself. I visit places that are low lit, places that offer a unique menu, great cocktails, and good service. I won’t name any names because I don’t want to take away from the many awesome places in town! Spokane offers a lot and I’m still exploring day-to-day!
Your favorite quote?
I don’t really do quotes but I’ll leave you with something my mom told me many, many years ago when we moved to Spokane, “be mindful of the company you keep!” She would tell me to surround myself with good people and I believe I have.
Well Chef, we are sure glad you and your family made the long trip from Chicago. Thanks for bringing your talents to Spokane! We appreciate you!