The fine dining highlight of this year's Feast is the Grand Gala winemaker dinner … a creative culinary collaboration prepared by six of the most popular – and talented -- chefs in the northern Rocky Mountains, accompanied by award-winning wines from Washington, Oregon, California and beyond!
This year's Grand Gala was be hosted by Chef Tim Good at the Last Chair Kitchen & Bar. The details for this year's Gala are still "under construction," but check back this April for updates and to reserve your seats for this year's Feast Grand Gala ... and prepare to be impressed!
Meet the Chefs of 2018...
Chef Tim Good, Last Chair Kitchen and Bar
Chef Tim Good got his start in the restaurant industry 24 years ago at the Barbary Fig in St. Paul, Minnesota, shortly before graduating from Macalester College with a degree in Biology. Realizing food was his true passion, Tim continued working at Mediterranean and French restaurants in the Twin Cities and northern Minnesota before deciding to head west in pursuit of mountains and fresh powder.
Tim landed in the Flathead Valley in 1998. In the winter he skiied Big Mountain during the days; at night, he honed his craft in a variety of Whitefish restaurants, including Moguls, Cafe Kandahar, Tupelo Grille and Wasabi. He spent his summers at the Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge, running the kitchen for the seasonal restaurant and bar. It was in this tiny off-the-beaten path community just west of Glacier National Park he met his future wife, Ali.
Tim and Ali planted their roots year-round in Whitefish and welcomed a son, Liam, in 2006. The following spring they started another new adventure together, launching The Cuisine Machine, a mobile catering company. The Cuisine Machine traveled the Flathead Valley for the next decade, becoming one of the area's most popular catering companies. Tim specialized in preparing and serving locally-sourced, scratch-made and unique fare at weddings, farmers markets, special events, and private parties.
In the winter of 2016, Tim and Ali purchased the old Haskill Station, and transformed it into the Last Chair Kitchen and Bar the following spring, incorporating some of his most popular menu items ... like the Walleye Sandwich, Chicken and Waffles, and Pad Thai into the new menu. At Last Chair, Tim continues to share his passion for cooking and creativity in the kitchen by offering both eclectic dishes and twists on familiar comfort food utilizing locally grown and sourced products whenever possible.
Tim was voted Whitefish's #1 chef in last year's "Best of Whitefish" awards, and took home top honors in last year's Feast Whitefish "Battle of the Burgers." Despite the accolades, he remains humble, grateful and steadfast to the motto you can find on a faded sticker on the back of The Cuisine Machine's trailer door: “Love people. Cook them tasty food.”
Chef Andy Blanton, Cafe Kandahar
Chef Andy Blanton’s culinary journey began while working as a dishwasher at the age of 15, when the allure of cooking became apparent and his curiosity began to arise. He enrolled at the Culinary Arts Institute of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, earning an Associates Degree in Culinary Artswhile exploring the flavorful cuisine and learning the techniques and core foundations of all facets of food preparation.
After gaining hard-earned experience at several local restaurants, Andy’s first job as a professional cook was at Commanders Palace in New Orleans, recipient of the James Beard Award for “Most Outstanding Restaurant in 1996.” There he learned to appreciate the depth within each dish, paying attention to details such as texture, mouth feel, presentation, eye appeal, and flavor … and how these elements combine for each and every palate. His next move was to Brigtsen’s, working under Frank Brigtsen – another James Beard Award-winning chef. While at Brigtsens, Andy was fortunate to also work with Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona at Spice Inc, and fine tune his experience even further.
In the fall of 1999, Andy chose to move to Whitefish, Montana for a change of pace and scenery. His talents were quickly recognized and he became Executive Chef of Café Kandahar at Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly Big Mountain) in 2000. After six years as Executive Chef, Andy along with his parents purchased the restaurant in 2006.
Recently Chef Blanton has been featured in numerous publications on the local, regional, and national scale, notably Wine Enthusiast, Sunset, and Travel and Leisure Magazines. In addition, Andy has been nominated four times as a semi-finalist for the coveted James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Northwest, in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. In 2012 he was invited to cook at the James Beard House, a culinary rite of passage and a distinguished honor. Cafe Kandahar was also named as one of the ten best small town fine dining Restaurants in the U.S. by Culturetrip.com.
Café Kandahar serves thoughtfully constructed cuisine. Showcasing locally cultivated products, local game, and farm-to-table ingredients, Café Kandahar strives to provide patrons with a unique and exquisite dining experience. The café specializes in the art of pairing food and wine and boasts an extensive wine list, with accolades from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Chef Ben Heese, Whitefish Mountain Resort
Chef Benjamin Heese has been the Executive Chef at Whitefish Mountain Resort since 2014, overseeing menus at three restaurants as well as at special events and weddings on the Mountain. Ben began his culinary career in Overland Park, Kansas working as a line cook while in high school. While earning his Bachelor's degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Ben worked at a Cajun restaurant, the Hibachi Hut, and spent his summer and winter doing internships at Keystone resort in Colorado, learning about the intricacies of banquet service and fine dining in the ski industry.
Ben managed a Panera Bread franchise near Kansas City, but "discovered" Whitefish while on a road trip a year later. He started rolling sushi at Wasabi Sushi Bar where he could express his culinary creativity, and eventually worked his way up to kitchen manager and sous chef.
During the last four years, Ben has elevated the quality of food and efficiency of service at The Summit House, the Base Lodge and Ed & Mully's restaurants. He's introduced new and exciting additions to each restaurant's menu, while continuing to provide high-quality "ski area classics" ... delivering high-value to record numbers of ski area guests. Ben approaches his winter, summer and banquet menus with spirit, creativity and enthusiasm, to the rave reviews of Whitefish Mountain guests.
When out of the kitchen (which is rare), Ben enjoys snowboarding, taking his family camping, paddling local lakes and rivers, and cooking over an open fire!
Chef Melissa Mangold, Latitude 48
Chef Melissa Mangold grew up in Kent, Ohio, and received her culinary degree from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts. She studied under master chefs in Koln, Germany before relocating the the Flathead Valley, where she spent three years as executive chef at Big Mountain Resort followed by 12 years as the executive chef at the Belton Chalet. Chef Melissa took over the kitchen at Latitude 48 last year, and is looking forward to working on this year's Grand Gala dinner!
Chef Jeremy Grossman, Abruzzo Italian Kitchen
Chef Jeremy Grossman began his adult life as an Army Ranger. An injury forced his separation from the Army and -- having always wanted to become a chef -- he attended culinary school in Los Angeles.
He worked first at Café Pinot and the two Michelin starred Melisse as a line cook. He quickly moved up to Junior Sous Chef at the Wilshire Restaurant, then was hired by Laurent Tourondel’s upscale BLT Steakhouse as Sous Chef when it opened in Los Angeles.
Looking to expand his knowledge and experience, he moved to Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon Wine Bar And Seasonal Kitchen where he was mentored by Evan Funke. He was later hired by celebrity chef Traci Des Jardins to be the Chef De Cuisine of her restaurant Manzanita at the Ritz Carlton in Lake Tahoe.
Jeremy and his wife Makayla decided to relocate to Whitefish to raise their two children in the small town his wife spent her childhood; he is currently the Executive Chef for Abruzzo Italian Kitchen and Tupelo Grille in Whitefish, and The Bandit in Columbia Falls.
Chef Chris Dimaio, Three Forks Grille
Chef Chris Dimaio moved to Montana in the fall of 1999 and took his first chef position at the legendary Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge. During the winter seasons, he worked at various Flathead Valley restaurants gaining experience through hands-on learning and developed a growing passion for cooking. While working under Chef Andy Blanton at cafe Kandahar, Chris learned to appreciate the beauty of food, and at the same time discovered an aptitude for the craft.
Dimaio's Sicilian influence is obvious throughout the seasonal menus he creates ... it's what is hidden to us that makes the food unique and enjoyable to eat. He has a way of preserving the old while embracing the new with colorful flavors and textures.
With a bachelors degree in biology, Dimaio has always had a love of science and nature. As an avid forager, he collects everything from wild mushrooms to wild nettles in his off time, and incorporates them into his daily specials. He is also a passionate home gardener, supplying fresh herbs and edible flowers to the restaurant. A growing interest in fermentation techniques and charcuterie has led to new and tasty products being produced in the Three Forks Grille kitchen.