Chef Spotlight - Chad White
by Erin Peterson
featured in Spokane Cd'A Living Magazine
Few chefs have set the local culinary scene on fire quite like Chad White. Born and raised in Spokane Valley, he made his mark on the culinary scene with an appearance on “Top Chef” in its 13th season. After the continued support and encouragement of his family and friends, he decided to bring the bold flavors of Mexico to the diners in our city with Zona Blanca Ceviche. His cutting-edge, globally influenced style keeps his customers coming back for more. The tiny, flavor-packed eatery located inside of Steel Barrel Taproom would launch him into the successful world of fast-casual dining, and was the foundation of his local restaurant group. He has grown two other businesses from the ground up; he added High Tide, a lobster bar and TT’s Old Iron Brewery, a thriving Spokane Valley barbecue joint to his list of acclaimed local restaurants.
Chef White was just named a 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist in the Best Chef Northwest & Pacific category (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington). This is a prestigious honor that has only been given to a handful of chefs in the Inland Northwest.
The road to success hasn’t been without challenges, and his characteristic intensity and dedication to excellence had carried him through a series of setbacks that have positively impacted his leadership in the expanding culinary empire he has been building in Spokane today. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s been difficult, and I’ve tried a lot of different things, and I’ve tried to be as consistent as possible and put on a happy face. It isn’t always great, but I keep pushing forward,” says Chad.
Many people don’t realize this, but every year Chad raises over $60,000 for local organizations with dinners that he puts on for charitable causes all over the city. “It’s not a lot of money, but the impact is huge. Restaurant employees are asked to give a lot. We have an ability, especially in our food community, to give back to organizations, and we take that very seriously. There is an opportunity to do something, and there is a far greater responsibility as a restaurateur in this city. It’s about training, it’s about love, and it’s about support,” says Chad. Organizations like Big Table, Junior League of Spokane, No Kid Hungry, CVHS Booster Club, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Kawasaki Disease Foundation, and Second Harvest Food Bank benefit from the donation of his time and talent.
At the end of the day, what makes the sacrifices of being a restaurant owner worth it for him is simple. He says, “I love seeing people happy. It really is so important to me. Seeing people smile because they’re being cared for Hearing reviews that say, ‘This is the most delicious meal I’ve ever had in Spokane,’ matters less to me, but seeing somebody truly enjoy their experience, that is really the highlight of it all.”
He not only believes in making people happy, but in the importance of supporting other chefs through the process of collaboration. It is important to him to be challenged and improve his craft as well as to form relationships with fellow industry members. “I love collaborating and camaraderie amongst chefs. We all cook on different levels. I guarantee that there is someone in this city that can do something better than me, and the exciting thing about collaborating is growth,” said Chad. His persistent belief in the possibilities in Spokane’s future help to maintain the buzz that we continue to receive from around the nation as a burgeoning food destination, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
About the author - Erin Peterson is a professional educator, award-winning blogger and a passionate local restaurant advocate with the Spokane Culinary Arts Guild. When she isn't teaching, she is cooking for friends and family, eating at the best ingredient-driven restaurants she can find, she is researching and writing about it. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at @spokane.guild.