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Executive Chef Kelley Cook

Basalt at Windrow Hotel, Ellensburg, WA

Kelley always enjoyed food. Her no-nonsense mom worked and would leave a casserole cookbook and ingredients on a table with a note saying, "When I get home…" She cooked from an early age, although she never worked in a restaurant or fast food spot.

As a graphic artist working in a building on Elliott Avenue in Seattle, she came to the realization that she really didn't enjoy it. She wanted to go to culinary school. During her research, she decided it was Paris for her! When she contacted the organization to find out more, she discovered there was an excellent culinary school three miles from her house, South Seattle Community College, and that people were driving two hours each way just to attend. Although disappointed about Paris, she felt it made sense to try it out. She loved every minute of the two-year program, 1992-1994.

After graduating, she worked at Paolo's, an Italian restaurant in Kent. "It was a great opportunity where everything was made-to-order. I spent a little over a year there in varying roles."

While there, she had the opportunity to be part of the vocational "Visiting Chef" program in the Highline, Federal Way, and Kent school districts, where she worked directly with the kids. "I did that multiple times. The program was funded through President Clinton's Crime Bill. I worked with kids who had to get into some kind of vocational training, a 'get kids off the street' thing. I feel like it did help the majority of the kids in the program. Some called for job references later." She was there until 1997.

Kelley and husband Mitch moved to Ellensburg in 1997 and bought a bakery which they ran for seven years. In 2004, they opened Dakota Café. About four years ago, they decided to sell it; two years ago someone bought it, then backed out due to the pandemic. She and Mitch still operate Dakota, open for breakfast and lunch. "It's been very tough through the pandemic because you can't make a living at 50% capacity. We did take out, but felt our food didn't translate, it didn't look good as take out. We did an annual St. Patrick's dinner and in 2020 we had all the food ready to go and then everything shut down. We called all our reservations and sold 60 take-out dinners that Mitch and I made ourselves."

Mitch saw that Hotel Windrow was looking for a chef and staff and called co-owner Steve Townsend. So along with running Dakota Café with their GM, Mitch is bar manager and a server at Basalt. Kelley came on as executive chef. "I came in wanting to bring the concept of quality ingredients for approachable food. Nothing too fancy. You always have 'safe eaters' and need to make sure they're comfortable. We do seasonal as much as possible. In summer, there's nothing better than ingredients from the local area. In winter, it's kale and potatoes. You need to bring other things in. I've gone to Yakima and brought back 140 pounds of peppers to be pickled and used all year."

After pandemic ups and downs, Basalt reopened on May 20, 2022, with a new menu.

May 2022

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