2015 Seattle Rising Star Chef Jeff Vance of Spur Gastropub

2015 Seattle Rising Star Chef Jeff Vance of Spur Gastropub
November 2015

What begins as a means to live a life that can provide the simple pleasures can sometimes spur brilliance. Chef Jeff Vance grew up in a small town in British Columbia with a thriving Italian community. His best friend’s family made their own wine and salami—a hands-on culinary connection that stayed with Vance even as his family moved, to Calgary, Southern California, and finally Spokane, Washington.

Vance spent seven years working the lines of low-key restaurants for cash to support his leisure activities: music and skateboarding. By 23, studying architecture floated into Vance's mind. The creative aspect of the field appealed to him. Being desk-bound did not. So Vance turned back to cooking. A pivotal position with Jeremy Hansen at Santé harnessed his creative energy with discipline, and he was promoted to sous chef in six months. Honing his craft, Vance began to scan the horizon for further culinary possibilities.

He moved to Seattle and discovered SPUR Gastropub, where he was hired a day after arriving and worked his way from garde manger to chef de cuisine in less than six months. Today, Vance's cuisine is all about big flavors, modern technique, and surprising outcomes. He makes unexpected, never-boring, exuberant food, and his boldness stands out in a booming Seattle market. 

Interview with Seattle Rising Star Chef Jeff Vance of Spur Gastropub

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Jeff Vance:
My first job as a line cook was for a diner in Spokane. I had a friend in high school that was a cook, and he had money for skateboards and music. I wanted that, so I applied to every restaurant I could.

SK: Who are your mentors?
Dana Tough and Brian McCracken, they do modern fine dining, and their food has had a huge impact on my career. Jeremy Hanson at Santé taught me what it means to be a chef
the lifestyle and how to present yourself. He made me able to step into the realm I'm in now.

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
The community here is great. I hang out with other chefs, cooks, and front-of-house people. It's obviously competitive, and we are fighting for guests and staff, but it pushes you to try harder and stay relevant. I also try to work with other chefs and do dinners together.

SK: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
Cooking is the easiest part. When looking at numbers and talking to vendors, it's hard to remember that the people who work for you are human beings. It's hard because everyone has a different personality. The $15 minimum wage is also going to be a challenge. Our business model doesn't account for it now. How can we raise prices, lower costs, but not sacrifice product? How are we going to make something different but now expensive?

SK: What's your five year plan?
I want to still be cooking, but don't know if it'll be here. Maybe own my business or work for someone who will let me have creative freedom. I want to educate myself on as many things as possible. I want to know the ins and outs of the business side of things and what the guest sees. 

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