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Executive Chef Chad Bostwick

Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing

An executive chef of both a steak house and taproom who turned 29 on May 14, 2019. Who is the young Chad Bostwick and how did he get here?

Chad grew up in Wenatchee. At 16, he was bussing and washing dishes at a pub there. His sister had moved to Walla Walla in 2008 and her husband was a GM at a local hotel. He texted Chad in July 0f 2012 to let him know there was a new director at the Wine Country Culinary Institute at Walla Walla Community College. Chad emailed the director, Dan Thiessen, and applied for the school. Two months later, he moved to Walla Walla. He worked with Dan for a few years as a student, then 4-1/2 years as an employee at the school.

In addition, he spent a few summers working weekend mornings at Woodward Canyon Winery's Reserve House Restaurant. He also worked full-time in banquets at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center while in school. "It was a different aspect of the industry and I wanted to learn it," says Chad. "I started in the front of the house but wanted to be in the kitchen. While I was there, the chef was nominated for a James Beard Foundation award; I learned a lot from him." He helped with catering at school as well. Eventually he became the school's catering chef.

When the Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing concepts became real, Dan wanted Chad to come with him. "I said, 'Cool. What will I be, sous chef?' He said, 'No, you'll be the executive chef.' It was exciting and terrifying! I was used to 45 seats and I was moving to a place with 220. Actually, the scope of what we were doing escaped me until we opened. It's a bit of a beast. Finding staff in Walla Walla who are used to this kind of volume is difficult. I was without a sous chef for three months. I was working every day, 16-20 hours. Now I'm down to six days a week for 10-12 hours and have two sous chefs. We can cover each other and take turns running events. Along with events, we're running two restaurants out of one kitchen and both sides are busy. It's an interesting dynamic, sometimes we have a great flow. It can also be intimidating. But the two sides complement each other and there are different expectations. Crossbuck is quick fire and ticket times are shorter. The Steak Co. is a dining experience with people starting with drinks and appetizers, moving to salads, then entrees and dessert. We have to manage these two expectations in one kitchen and maintain the quality on both ends. Then you add on the catering which is a big aspect of the business. Recently we did 200-person events on both Thursday and Friday, and a wine dinner on Saturday."

Walla Walla Steak Co. simplicity

Chad and his wife McKenzie, a schoolteacher, feel part of the Walla Walla community. "We had talked about moving elsewhere to grow my career. We looked at Portland, San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle. I kept getting opportunities here and we love Walla Walla. The growth from wineries and restaurants has been positive for the city. And for me. This has been a huge opportunity for me to expand my skills and career. Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time. I just have to find the balance between work and personal and I feel that it's in sight now. I'll be able to go fishing!"

While Chad is a young executive chef, there's another story that makes it more amazing. He is a childhood cancer survivor, diagnosed at 9 years of age with Ewing's Sarcoma, a type of cancer that forms in bone or soft tissue, and he has a cadaver femur. "I was starved of good food and when I was young, I ate soft shell crab at Flying Fish in Seattle. It was amazing. My family was involved with the Make a Wish Foundation and when I was 10, we got to have dinner at the Dahlia Lounge, and I met Tom Douglas. It was so amazing; it was a fancy restaurant with ducks on rotisseries and they were making bread and chicken stock. It was awesome. I wanted to be a chef and idolized Chef Morimoto on TV. From my experience, I understood that hospitality is more than just feeding people. It can make a lasting impact on someone's day. I knew it was an opportunity to have an effect on people with good food, plus be out in the community and have a positive influence. I've been given so much, I want to give back."

Beer and burger at Crossbuck

Make a Wish Foundation also does big things, and he thought he'd never get to see Hawaii. The Foundation sent him and his family to the Grand Wailea on Maui when he was 15. He got to see the action in the kitchen. "Travel has a big impact on me. My wife and I want to do more, maybe back to Hawaii and then Mexico."

Chad had one of those full-circle moments when he was working Taste Washington in 2019. "Tom Douglas was there. He took the time to come over to see me. It was a brief interaction, but he said he remembered me and congratulated me."

Chad tried not to be a chef and went to community college, taking four quarters of accounting. "It just wasn't me," he laughs. "I get numbers but working in a restaurant is more fun. My wife is a very exceptional person and has taught me how to have empathy which has really helped me. At the Steak Co. and Crossbuck, we're always thinking about what our guests want. We've simplified the menu and made it smaller. I'd like to bring in a market sheet and grow the menu naturally. We need to be as efficient as possible when menu planning. I've worked in chain restaurants and nicer places, all with different concepts, and they all helped me get here. I'm very fortunate to be where I am at this point in life."

Walla Walla Steak Co.
Crossbuck Brewing
416 N 2nd Ave
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Connie Adams/October 2019

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