MEET CHEF ADAM HEGSTED – Culinary leader in Spokane

If you know him, you love him! Chef Adam Hegsted is a culinary leader and business visionary in Spokane. He has left, and continues to leave, his mark on Spokane and beyond through his dedication to changing the restaurant world.

Currently, he is running six different restaurants while also managing other business ventures, like La Catering – a catering company, Doughlicious – a bakery, a one-of-a-kind food festival, and a TV show “Crave TV”. In our interview with him, he explains some of his story, his restaurants, and offers advice to future business entrepreneurs like himself.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a chef?

Now, this is the story all about how,

My life got flipped-turned upside down,

And I’d like to take a minute if I can,

I’ll tell you how I became a chef in a town called Spokane…

Proud to be an Inland Pacific Northwest native having grown up here and having lived most of my life here. I started as a dishwasher at Marie Calendar’s restaurant in the Valley and moved up to do just about every job there was there. From there, I graduated from Northwest Culinary Academy and Art Institute of Seattle with two culinary arts degrees. Apprenticed in Los Angeles. Worked at the Space Needle in Seattle and then came back to the Inland Northwest to work for the Black Rock Corporation as the chef and then as a chef at Cedars Floating Restaurant.

Continuing my career, moved on to the executive chef of Brix restaurant where I got to start creating my own cuisine and style. I briefly tried opening my small restaurant called Le Piastre which as it turned out, I didn’t know how to operate efficiently. After selling that business in 2008, I moved on to the Coeur d’Alene Casino and Resort, which is where I learned how to run the business side of restaurants. First, I was hired on as a restaurant chef, then moved my way up to Executive Chef, overseeing all the restaurants. I then decided to take another leap and I left my super cozy, good-paying job with benefits to try again and open Eat Good Cafe, then Wandering Table and Yards, and what we now call Eat Good Group Restaurants. 

What brought you to Spokane?

More of what got me to come back and stay. I loved the pace and quality of life in the Inland Northwest. There just wasn’t a food scene or many good restaurants. There were a few stops and starts of a food scene, but it never really flourished. I always wanted my own restaurant or small cafe but didn’t know if it would happen in Spokane. I thought of moving to Portland or Seattle but didn’t like the traffic, pace of life, etc. and I decided to stay in Spokane and try to see what I could do here. One day, many moons ago, a group of chefs (and a couple of food writers) decided to collaboratively push the culinary movement forward.

We asked ourselves “Why can’t Spokane’s food scene match Portland? What stops us from doing that?”. So, we all decided to do our own thing to add to the scene. I did a pop-up/underground restaurant called Wandering Table, which was kind of trendy in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and was traveling around doing twelve course, 20-30 person dinners in random locations. This helped me hone my skills and my cuisine style and gave me some great opportunities to meet people.

Why is Spokane a great place to start/own a business?

The potential in the area is crazy right now. It’s essentially the wild west and you have an open slate to decide what your future looks like and help shape this community for our future and our kid’s future. You can still open a new business with almost no money and have a great chance at succeeding.

What was your defining moment/inspiration?

This is constantly evolving. I read every cookbook I can get my hands on. I travel as much as I can and eat out all the time. Looking for new ideas and inspirations. Ultimately though, I love food and serving people. I always have. I love meeting people and being a part of their lives, whether it’s customers, vendors, farmers, producers, brewers, employees, it’s always so interesting how we are all connected by food.

It’s also amazing that people share those lives with us, and we get to be a part of their stories. That itself inspires me to keep going, creating, and is inspirational for everything I do.

  • Tell us about your restaurants!

Briefly is hard. We have a lot of things going all at once. Our basic premise is that my management team and myself help define the direction and vision of a restaurant. We take the ideas and make them into something.

We then hand that off to the chef and manager to put their thumbprint on the business and take ownership in everything that is happening, to somewhat work autonomously and make daily decisions. Here’s the list:

Yards Bruncheon- Modern Diner

Baba restaurant- Mediterranean

Gilded Unicorn – Craft Cocktails and Modern Comfort Food

Incrediburger and Eggs- Fast Casual Burgers and Breakfast Sandwiches

Le Catering Co- Onsite and Offsite Catering

Eat Good Cafe- Corporate Dining

Doughlicious Bakery- Whole bakery to our restaurants and eventually retail locations, Good Foods Commissary- commissary for our restaurants (pickles, cheese, hot sauce, yogurt, chilies, kimchi..lots)

Republic Kitchen + Taphouse- Pub

Honey Eatery, and Social Club- Upstairs is Modern Comfort Food, Downstairs is Craft Cocktails

Crave North West – Inland North West Food Festival

Increditruck- Burger Food Truck

Share Farm- Meal Kits and Emergency Food Boxes

Chinook at Coeur d’ Alene Casino- Modern North West Steakhouse

Laughing Dog Brewing, Summit Cider, Current Seltzer

Partner at Kinetek Media- Social Media Management and Website Design

Host of Crave TV- badass show with another awesome host

  • What’s some advice you would give to someone wanting to start a business in Spokane?

Not that many things can’t be undone. If you’re willing to work your ass off, potentially lose everything, and work when it’s not always fun…do it. If you have the grit to push through the tough times, you will be rewarded and will succeed. It’s not always pretty or fun but it is fulfilling. Make sure you love what you are doing because sometimes no one else will.

  • What sets you apart from the competition?

We try to set a separate identity at our restaurants, so they stand out from everything else but are also tied in small ways to each other. You will see small similarities, but hopefully, the quality of the experience, the kindness, and hospitality will be the thing that gets people back over and over.

We truly love serving people and sharing our restaurant with the community. Our hope is our guests feel and taste that when they visit.

  • What’s next for you?

No idea. I don’t necessarily plan every step out. We look at new ideas and restaurants constantly and they have to be a great fit. Sometimes it works out, most of the time it doesn’t, but we are always looking to see where the business leads us. For now, we are working on honing our operations and trying every day to get a little better than we were yesterday.

  • Where do you like to eat around Spokane (besides your restaurants)?

There are too many to name here. I love eating out. Here’s a short list; Durkins and Casper Fry, Kim’s Korean, Moontime (and related), Syringa (and Bluebird/Monarch), Ruins and Stellas, Zona Blanca, Tavolata, Vine and Olive/Vicino Pizzeria, Gander and Ryegrass, Hogwash, Wooden City, Italia Trattoria, Cochinito…I could go on.

If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?

Pizza, Burgers, and a TV connected to WIFI.

What’s your favorite 90’s jam?

I love hip hop. I’ll go with Nuthin’ But A G Thang by Dre and Snoop.

What is the last thing you watched on tv?

Eat Like a Chef TV….heard it was amazing and it lived up to the hype.

Chef Adam has restaurants throughout Spokane that suit everyone’s pallet. We definitely recommend making time for ALL of them as they each offer their own unique flavors and experience.

Gilded Unicorn // 110 S. Monroe, Spokane, WA 99201 // 509.309.3698

Baba // 1242 W Summit Pkwy, Spokane, WA 99201 // 509.443.4410

The Yards Bruncheon // 1248 W Summit Pkwy, Spokane, WA 99201 // 509.290.5952

Incrediburger & Eggs // 909 W 1st Ave, Spokane, WA 99201 // 509.443.4215

Republic Kitchen + Taphouse // 120 E 4th Ave, Post Falls, ID 83854 // 208.457.3610

Honey Eatery & Social Club // 317 E Sherman Ave, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814 // 208.930.1514

 P.S. Keep an eye out for his ‘signature’ – a different spin on deviled eggs at each of his restaurants.

Photos by: Doyle Wheeler (Kinetek Media)