We are just a couple of local guys doing high quality stuff and trying not to suck” says Chef Travis Dickinson about himself and business partner, Justin, regarding their new restaurant, Cochinito Taqueria in downtown Spokane. 

Chef Travis Dickinson grew up in Post Falls, Idaho. He started his career in the restaurant world at the ripe age of 15 when he worked as a dishwasher at Coeur d’Alene Resort. He says he worked there because he “needed job to pay for skateboards and shoes”. After that, he helped open Hot Rod Cafe in Post Falls. After he graduated from high school, he though he was going to become a Physical Therapist. Plans changed and he ended up moving to Portland to attend Culinary School (and skateboard). He graduated from Western Culinary Institute and got a job at Hall Street Grill in Beaverton, Oregon. He worked there on and off for 12 years when he left to help open “Genoa” in Portland. He ended up returning to Hall Street Grill to work as the Executive Chef until he met his wife and decided to move closer to home. They moved to Spokane in 2014 and he worked as the Executive Chef at Clover for about three years. He always knew his ultimate goal was to open some place like Cochinito Taqueria.

So, he took the leap with his business manager, Justin. Justin and Travis met at Clover and quickly realized that they work really well together. They have the same goals, the same work ethic and they became good friends. Travis and Justin have been working non-stop since they opened the doors to Cochinito in February 2018. When designing the business plan for Cochinito, they were really “excited to have a place that [our] friends can afford and a place for them to hang out.”

Before Cochinito took over the prime downtown space on Post Street, it was home to Niko’s Greek Restaurant for almost 30 years, and, more recently, Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant. 

Why did you decide to become a chef?

“I fell into it. I have always been a hard worker. I was working full-time while going to high school at age 16. I like the fast paced environment. It reminds me of the skateboarding sub-culture. It’s a weird group of outcast people who reminded me of who I have always been comfortable around.” Unfortunately Travis is no longer able to skateboard after getting his FIFTH knee surgery.

What is your favorite cooking show?

“I used to really like Top Chef. Lately I’ve been watching “Ugly Delicious”. It’s really cool. Every episode is dedicated to something and episode 2 is tacos.”

Is there a chef you admire the most? Why?

“Thomas Keller –gives me inspiration. I was a cook book geek during culinary school. I’ve been looking at a lot of Rick Bayless stuff right now because it’s Mexican themed and I like his style.”

What set of skills or characteristics do you have that you think set you apart?

“My work ethic. Sometimes I will send the dishwasher home early and do them myself to save on labor costs. I don’t have a problem staying motivated because I truly love my job. I feel like I could work forever. I have been in the industry for almost 22 years.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

“Hike, spend time outdoors, take dogs out, get out and try new places, ride my motorcycle, golf, BBQ.”

Where do you like to eat around Spokane?

Ruins, Gordy’s, Inland Pacific Kitchen, Hogwash.”

What ingredients do you like to work with?

“Chiles. Specifically dried chiles. We use super fresh, dried chiles that are nice and soft. I like learning their flavors, what they bring to a dish, and how the mixes can create different flavors.”

What can we expect from Cochinito?

“Right now we are just trying to get our feet under us. We are hoping to eventually have menus that change seasonally as well as hosting special events. We are closed on Sundays so we want to host wine dinners, tequila pairings, launch parties, etc in our space. We are going to stay creative and keep the staff challenged.”

What is your favorite thing on the menu at your restaurant?

“Pork Cheek Carnitas. It’s classical Mexican. Cured overnight in salt and sugar. Heavily toasted in spices, soaked, fried crispy. It’s an old school, perfect taco.”

You’re on death row, what would your last meal be?

Classical French Beef bourguignon . “I’d like to go out with some comfort food”.

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

1. Water

2. Bag of Massa

3. Good book

What is your favorite cereal? You can tell a lot about a person based on their favorite cereal…

Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cookie Crisp