By Mandi Donohue
Pork Belly Reuben. Korean Street Tacos. Ropa Vieja. Those will be just a few of the enticements on the menu at Local Blend, a new “global comfort food” restaurant opening later this month in Twisp.
“It’s for locals,” says owner and chef Eric Schade. “There’s gonna be no pretension here. I don’t care if you just got done working, come as you are. I’m going to give you really good food at a decent price in a funky place, and I just want everyone to be happy.”
Schade will serve up his culturally eclectic dishes in the front half of YardFood, the local garden center on Highway 20. Schade was introduced to YardFood 12 years ago, when the store — then known as Local 98856 — featured a café, where Schade’s mother worked as a cook for owner Tess Hoke.
Schade thought of staying at the time, but went back to the East coast to work and save enough money to pursue his dream of owning his own restaurant.
Originally from Albany, New York, Schade was introduced to a love for food in childhood. “I was raised with a decent palate,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of your basic food; everything had to be pretty adventurous.”
After a stint in the military, he took classes at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and then worked for Mazzone Hospitality, a gourmet catering company, eventually becoming kitchen manager at the international company’s corporate headquarters.
But his true love of flavor and fearlessness in the kitchen comes from friend and renowned chef Ric Orlando, owner of New World Home Cooking and New World Bistro Bar in Albany and a frequently named best chef of New York’s Hudson Valley.
“Before him I was a by-the-numbers kind of guy,” Schade says. “I’ve always been passionate about what I do, but Ric really brought it out in me, challenged me to try new things. He got my fire going.”
Schade spent a summer in Twisp in 1982, when his mother first moved here. He moved back full-time in April 2016 to be near her. He worked for a time as the banquet chef and kitchen manager at Sun Mountain Lodge, then realized it was time to work for himself. YardFood seemed the perfect space.
“I’ve just loved this place from the first time I saw it and knew this is where I always wanted my restaurant,” he says. “I love the whole, natural feel of it. I love that it’s all made out of recycled materials.”
Schade will be joined at Local Blend by Justin Fellom, who will work the front of the restaurant. A Boise native, Fellom moved to the Methow about a year ago; he met Schade when they both worked at Sun Mountain.
Fellom calls the Methow and the new restaurant opportunity “the right time, right place.” His focus will be on service: “My passion is treating every person who walks through that door as a guest, not a customer.”
Working in the kitchen alongside Schade will be Andy Lewis, who Schade describes as passionate and meticulous.
“He cares about what he puts out,” Schade says. “If you’re going to put out something with his name on it, he’s proud of it, which is what you want in this business.”
Given the high rate of failure in the restaurant business, Schade is not sanguine about the challenge he’s taking on. But he has sampled the Methow Valley’s dining scene and feels Local Blend will fill a gap.
“My food is more rustic with very loud flavors,” he says. “I can do fine dining but I oftentimes find it’s more fluff than substance. I’m not so focused on how pretty it’s going to be but afterwards on a customer going, ‘Man, that was delicious. When can we come back?’”
Schade hopes to open Tuesday, Aug. 22, but is waiting on final state inspection approvals.
Local Blend, which will seat 40-50 guests, initially will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. The menu will rotate a few times a year and offer various soups, desserts, ongoing specials, beer and wine. Later Schade hopes to add Sunday brunch and lunch openings.
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