Losing a Legend to Philadelphia
by Erin Peterson
There are few people who have left their mark on the local food scene quite like Chef Jeremy Hansen, and he is no stranger to success. He was named a semifinalist in 2015 for a James Beard Award (akin to the Oscars of food) for Best Chef Northwest, has been on dozens of local best lists, and last year earned the "Chef of the Year" award from the Spokane Culinary Arts Guild for his innovative and spectacular local cuisine that was so exceptional that his nomination for the award was unanimous.
It was at the counter facing the Butcher Bar at Santé that my husband and I decided to take on the work of reviewing and showcasing local food in Spokane as a result of the phenomenal meal we were enjoying (and that we felt everyone in the city needed to know about). That New Year's Eve, Chef Hansen came to chat with us and inspired our project even further. It was that personable approach and open-book attitude that opened the door to get to know his family on a personal level, and we wanted to do anything we could to more deeply understand the struggles that chef-owners and their families faced as they pioneered in the cities they grew up in and loved. Ever since, we were patrons of their restaurants on at least a monthly basis, and were never without their famous "Sante mustard" in our refrigerator. Even our kids insisted that we never do without it (what we wouldn't give for that recipe - it is seriously life-changing).
He opened Santé in 2008 with his wife Kate Hansen (featured here in our Women in Food series), and the paint from his tiny children still adorned the walls behind the high-back seating near the windows. During the transition from Santé to Smoke and Mirrors Saloon, we had a unique opportunity to talk to him about his hopes for the future and the projects he had upcoming. This once bustling Parisian-style restaurant was now eerily silent, and the memory of the meals that we had there hung in the air, thick with emotion. We stood in the space in silence for a moment before he opened up about his long journey as a chef and as a business owner in Spokane.
His local empire of food-centric businesses grew from one to five in a decade, and now they are all up for sale.
He leaves August 5th after he was headhunted for a promising restaurant in Philadelphia, PA. After making sure that his family was ok with the shift, they dove in and accepted the offer that was presented to them on a visit to the east coast. After his formal acceptance letter began the process of selling his restaurants here, which he already had offers on before he announced the sale. He looks forward to placing the reins of his establishments in the right hands, and he takes the responsibility of passing them on very seriously. Kate Hansen will stay behind and lend her expertise to help train the teams that take on the spaces during the transition of ownership to ensure their success.
On Amalgam's podcast July 30th (listen for the full scoop), he said, "Leaving will be hard because of the part we played in the food scene here, and what it's turning into. There's a lot happening here, and it's hard to see it go," Hansen said. "It's growing rapidly, and the food scene is getting better every day."
Philadelphia is an up and coming center of exceptional food, and it was a natural next step for the chef. A thriving art scene, low cost of living, high quality of life, rich culture, and strong job opportunities were all present in that market, and was everything he had hoped for in relocating. Chef Hansen and his family will be such an asset to their new community in helping it to grow.
We will miss his involvement in our local culinary scene, as his influence is felt in every corner. The best meals I've ever had in Spokane were crafted by him and his team, and the first thought I had was how sad I am in losing such a powerful creative force. Those cherished memories will now be a part of the past and it's profoundly sad to recognize that I'll have to travel to Philadelphia to make that happen again. We are heartbroken for the loss, but hopeful for his future in a larger city to showcase his work to even more people than ever before.
Hansen said, "It's hard to leave what I created and especially in the middle of its growth spurt. But, I'm glad to say that I had a part in helping it get there. I'm satisfied with what we got to do here and the support we got from Spokane. There's opportunities for even more people to leave a legacy or start one."
Cheers to the Hansen family and their new beginning. You will be dearly missed.