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Our chefs

Bringing the heat from local kitchens to your plate.

Meet our local chefs

From chef-curated products to our superb hands-on cooking classes and demonstrations, we work closely with local chefs to bring you the best culinary experience we can cook up. Explore the stories of our chef partners and discover something delicious alongside us.

Alex Austin

As a graduate of the Kitchen Institute of Mom and a former player in the Comedy Sports Improv troupe, Alex was born to cook and entertain. With a culinary obsession for taste, facts, and presentation, plus an overactive imagination, you are sure to laugh and learn with Alex.

Alex offers a variety of classes, including Sushi, Pasta, Knife Skills, and Asian Appetizers.

Alex Austin

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Jamie Aquino

Jamie Aquino has been creating and cooking Vegetarian and Plant-Based recipes for 30 years and has taught in the Inland Northwest for the last decade.

I’m the eldest of five children, we all inherited the cooking gene and a common palate, yet our cooking styles could not be more diverse. I love to draw from flavor profiles around the globe and add an element of comfort to them when creating recipes. My favorite time of year is Farmers Market season, just the sight of fresh produce inspires me to create something new!

My mentors are my paternal Grandma Aurelia, who showed me how immensely rewarding cooking for others could be, my maternal Grandma Diane, who was the quintessential "Martha Stewart", and my amazing mom, Cindi. My mom taught me the four Ps, patience, perseverance, passion, and a positive attitude are the best ingredients when learning to cook from scratch. She showed me how to combine ingredients for the best flavor and how combining certain foods help achieve optimal nutrition.

I'm often asked what my favorite food is and honestly, it doesn’t matter what I’m eating, as long as the person sharing the meal with me is enjoying it as much as I am. I love to share my passion with anyone seeking a healthier lifestyle or that loves cooking as much as I do!

If I were to summarize my cooking in a nutshell I would say, I create vegetarian and plant-based recipes that use natural and local ingredients, minimize processed food, and add more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes to one's daily diet.

I believe that eating healthy shouldn't mean bland and mundane, and it should also be “everyday affordable”, meaning it shouldn’t take too much of your time or your budget.

Jamie Aquino

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Kristi Fountain

Kristi is an avid cook with a passion for whole, seasonal, local and organic foods. She is an advocate for local farms and a long-time activist in the Slow Food Movement.

A fascination with the connections between food, culture, and community has fueled my lifelong passion for cooking. A long-time activist in the Slow Food movement and an advocate for local farms, my focus is on whole, seasonal, local, and organic foods.

My initial culinary education was strongly influenced by my grandmother’s home-cooking—the simple hearty fare of German ancestry combined with depression-era survival and years of feeding hungry farmhands. Growing up in the Midwest in a family of farmers, I quickly learned that the whole, seasonal foods coming out of my family’s garden were far superior in quality and taste to anything at the grocery—especially vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes.

After moving to the Pacific Northwest as a young adult, my cooking education was inspired by the new array of foods available to me in this coastal region. My culinary journey continues as I travel and explore other cultures and their food traditions—bringing back new recipes, techniques, and flavors to add to my understanding of food and cooking.

I believe in the kitchen table. We connect through food and add value to people’s lives by feeding each other and eating together. We eat for sustenance as well as pleasure. I am passionate about helping others confidently create opportunities for connection through food.

Kristi Fountain

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Mark Steinmetz

Chef Mark Steinmetz was born and raised in Spokane and loves living in the Northwest. Mark is a graduate of the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy and has been cooking for 32 years, with 29 of those years employed at Clinkerdaggers, a restaurant voted "Best Fine Dining Restaurant" by The Inlander Magazine and "Most Scenic View" by OpenTable. Mark honed his skills as a sous chef for five years and now finds himself in a rewarding and caring role as a chef for Hospice of Spokane. He enjoys outdoor activities and of course, cooking. Mark not only takes joy in teaching a recipe but also teaching the cooking concepts behind it.

Chef Mark's classes specialize in high-end meats and seafood such as Salmon, Scallops, BBQ Ribs, and how to Cut Steaks from Primal Cuts. He is well known for his Dessert Class, featuring Burnt Cream, also known as Crème brûlée, Chocolate Mousse, and his Strawberry Coeur a'la Creme dessert.

Mark Steinmetz

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Vira Melendez-Redman

Chef Vira (Pronounced “Vida”) has 30+ yrs of experience in the Food Service industry. She earned her Culinary Degree from the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy and has worked in several restaurants in the Spokane area.
Chef Vira was instrumental in the development of a Food Service Program for low-income and homeless women in our community and was the Head Chef Instructor for the program.

My passion is teaching. I love to teach folks basic cooking styles and techniques. Because I’m Mexican, I love to share the Farm Style of Mexican cooking, very rustic, very simple foods. I love to feed family and friends always and anytime. I love basic American cooking, the simpler the better. I feel that in our home kitchens we can have simplicity loaded with amazing flavor.

Chef Vira is a past winner of several Cooking Contests for the Northwest Dairy Council and The Penn Cove Mussel Contest.

Vira Melendez-Redman

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Al Batson

Al Batson is a professional Barbecue Competitor and loves meeting new people he can share his passion with.

My first time delving into the barbecue world was in my early 20s. I found that barbecue cooking was a process that helped me escape the stresses and pressures of life. However, the more I practiced, the more I fell in love with the art of wood-fired cooking and craved to learn the science behind it.

Barbecue quickly morphed from hobby to obsession to career, ultimately landing me a job with Traeger Grills. I toured the country for 4 years, learning, teaching, competing, and doing anything barbecue-related.

The job allowed me to meet and learn from some of the biggest names in barbecue, dine at some of the most famous barbecue joints, and experience everything the American barbecue community has to offer. I was gifted the opportunity to learn various bbq styles and cultures from regions across the country. I learned everything from the mustard-and-vinegar sauces of the Carolinas to the dry rubs of Memphis, the tomato and molasses-based sauces of Kansas City to the no-nonsense beef that makes Texas barbecue so legendary. Taking in everything I learned, I’ve developed my style of barbecue by combining all my favorite elements from around the country and have created a melting pot style of BBQ with a local PNW flair!

After getting off the road, I opened a barbecue truck for a brief period and found that my true passion is teaching, competing, and exploring new methods and styles of barbecue. I come from a local farming family and try to source local ingredients whenever possible and love to develop sauces that pair well with local libations. I think it’s important to utilize local flavors whenever possible to pay homage to the world’s most primitive form of cooking.

Anthony Bourdain said, “Barbecue may not be the path to World Peace, but it’s a start."

Al Batson

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All we can say is WOW! ☕️

We were blown away by the turn out and support of our first ever ‘latte art Throwdown competition’!

More photos to come but for now we wanted to give a HUGE thank you to our generous sponsors! We couldn’t have done this without each of you ❤️
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The @theinlander “best of” readers poll is out and open for voting until 2/14!

And in case you’re wondering, the correct answer is ‘E’. 😉

Vote here: bestof.inlander.com
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We’re taking you behind the scenes into our kitchen as we bake another batch of our infamous lemon curd bars!

It’s love at first bite and if you look at the love, care and ingredients we put into baking them, you’ll see why! Fresh squeezed lemon, the very best vanilla bean, and if you wait until the end, you’ll see they’re even @spokaneeats approved 🥰

Visit our cafe and cross your fingers they aren’t sold out 💛🍋
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Join us on Feb 2nd for our first “Latte Art Throwdown” from 5-8:30! ☕️☕️☕️
Expect an evening of appetizers, drinks, and friendly competition! Compete in the latte art competition, or just spectate and snack with us. Space is limited and RSVP is required for all attendees.

All skill levels welcome, from home espresso masters to seasoned cafe baristas. Sponsored by @domacoffee

For more competition details, prize packages, and to RSVP (the event is free) please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-kitchen-engine-latte-art-throwdown-party-tickets-508212235477
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Did you know… there are so many great uses for your Parmesan rinds!

We love to use them in soup stocks but of course we also had to try this current viral trend where you turn them into crunchy cheese chips!

Let us know if you try it!
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Only 2 seats left in our January 26th class: Charcuterie with @rickycaker (genius behind @rindandwheat & @morselspokane ) 🧀

In this entertainment style class you'll walk out knowing how to build gorgeous charcuterie boards as well as everything there is to know about cheese! How to choose them, detailed tasting notes, tips and tricks for aesthetically pleasing ways to assemble your boards, drink pairing knowledge, leftover cheese storage tips and how to take care of those beautiful boards!

Sign up now at thekitchenengine.com
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