Born in Austria, Leo Haas began training to be a chef at age 14 at one of Europe’s great luxury hotels, Hotel Sacher Salzberg.It wasn’t glamorous work. He started peeling onions, garlic and potatoes; plucking feathers from hanging pheasants in the basement; and cracking the shells of crayfish until his fingertips where bloody. One of his favorite tasks was separating stems from spinach leaves. It seemed important because the stems were ground into creamed spinach for staff meals and the leaves were used in the restaurant.
In the 25 years since then, Haas has cooked around the world and owned an award-winning European fine dining restaurant in Leavenworth, Wash. Now an executive chef with Lewiston’s Happy Day Corp., he is one of the featured chefs in the Vine & Fork 2013 dinner series starting Wednesday. The series is a fundraiser by the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center Foundation to establish a new women’s health center on the hospital’s campus.
The five dinners will take place at local venues and restaurants over the coming months but each menu will be unique and not something one can usually order. Tickets for each dinner are $100 per person.
“It gives chefs a chance to express their talent and a little bit of freedom to step outside of what they do each day,” says Devin Hill, special events coordinator for the foundation.
Juniper Kissed Grilled Quail and Bing Cherry Chutney are two items on the menu for Wednesday’s dinner by Haas, taking place at the Clarkston Event Center.
The Northwest is unique from a culinary standpoint because of its offerings, says Haas, who moved to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley in 2010. “Fruit trees, berries, mushrooms, fresh seafood from the ocean on the Seattle side — there’s so much abundance,” he says.
Reservations for Vine & Fork must be made in advance through the foundation and seating is limited to about 30 people for each event. Tables for six to eight people can be arranged. Business casual attire is appropriate.
Featured chefs will explain the food and wine pairings at their dinners, which range from four to six courses. Winemakers will talk about the evening’s vintages and the grapes, soil and weather behind them. Wednesday’s winemaker is Rebecca Gunselman of Spokane’s boutique winery Robert Karl Cellars.
For the Sept. 16 event diners will travel to Colter’s Creek Tasting Room in Juliaetta for a meal prepared by Chef Eric Conte of Moscow’s Red Door and Gnosh restaurants. Hill says a shuttle from Lewiston will be available and people should note if they’d like to take it upon registering.
Other dinners are Aug. 19 at Sycamore Street Grill in Clarkston with Basalt Cellars; Oct. 18 at Macullen’s American Eatery in Lewiston with Clearwater Canyon Cellars; and Nov. 13 at Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston with Maryhill Winery.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.sjrmc.org, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, (208) 799-5416.
What: Vine & Fork 2013
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7 and 19; Sept. 16; Oct. 18 and Nov. 13
Where: Various venues
Cost: $100 per person per dinner