Executive Chef Jonathan Gilbertson is determined to make dining memorable at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel's Bin 20 restaurant.
"I want Bin 20 to be the place to come for fine food and fine wine, not just one or the other," he said.
Gilbertson, 39, has been with Red Lion for three years and at the Pasco location for five months. He was executive chef at the Red Lion at the Quay in Vancouver, Wash., when he was offered one of two options: Take over the kitchen at a downtown Seattle Red Lion or the Pasco hotel.
"I turned Seattle down to come here because there are more opportunities in the Tri-Cities. I've always loved wines, and here I'm right in the heart of Washington wine country," he said. "This area is a playground for a chef. You have the farmers, the winemakers and the ranchers all right here. The Tri-Cities is a good fit for me."
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In the months Gilbertson's been here, he has sought out organic and local sources for salad greens and herbs, added American-raised Kobe-style beef to the menu and expanded the selection of seafood at Bin 20.
All the fillets and steaks -- whether red meat or fish -- are hand cut. The fish is "jet fresh," meaning it is flown in fresh from the source whether it is Maine, Alaska or Baja California.
"Our meats and fish are a cut above our competitors," he joked.
He also is reinstating winemaker dinners. The first, Fidelitas Wines, which is owned by Charlie Hoppes, is scheduled in July. Watch for updates at www.bin20.com.
Gilbertson's culinary career began in Denver when he was in his teens and his parents suggested he find a job. He was soon up to his elbows in soapy water. He worked his way from washing dishes to plating them, doing prep work, spending 10 to 12 hours a day cooking on the line and finally, at age 22, being named executive chef at the Golden Buffalo restaurant in Boulder, Colo.
"I'm not a fan of culinary school. I'd rather get out and learn by doing while getting paid for it," he said.
His work experience included stints at The Caribou Club in Aspen, Colo., and The Left Bank in Vail. At 25, he moved to Palm Springs, Calif., to work at the Desert Horizon Country Club and eventually for Hilton Worldwide in San Diego. He joined Red Lion in 2008.
While he likes living in the Tri-Cities, Gilbertson misses the wide variety of ethnic dining options available in the Portland-Vancouver area. But he plans to bring a taste of them to the Tri-Cities.
"Moroccan, Ethiopian, Italian, Thai, I love them all. My food is an ethnic infusion," he said.
If you stop in for dinner at Bin 20, don't be surprised if Chef Gilbertson drops by your table. Each night he singles out diners at two or three tables for one-on-one attention.
"I talk to them, find out what they're looking for and then create something just for them with what's fresh in the kitchen," he said. "I like to wow people, to give them a dining experience, not just dinner."
Entrees at Bin 20 run from $22 to $33; see the menu at www.bin20.com.