Hannah Heber readily admits it. She is an “absolute perfectionist” – a characteristic that serves her well as pastry chef and co-owner of Taste Café in Spokane.
“That’s why I love baking. You can’t go back once you start something. You have to get it right the first time,” she said.
And she has gotten right with Taste, a popular downtown café well known for delicious salads and entrée made with fresh, local ingredients – and for Hannah’s delectable pastries.
A hobby baker for many years, Hannah used her time in kitchen to de-stress after busy days working at Williams-Sonoma in the Bay Area. Although she worked in inventory management in the company’s Pottery Barn division, Hannah says, “One of the perks of the job was visiting the Williams-Sonoma corporate office and meet celebrity chefs working in the test kitchens there.”
And, of course, San Francisco’s many fabled bakeries gave Hannah inspiration. “I visited a lot of bakeries,” she said, laughing.
But a summer visit to Spokane changed all that for Hannah and her mother, Jane, who was living in the Los Angeles area. “We fell in love with it here and saw such opportunity for doing something we’d dreamed about – opening a restaurant like Taste. We really believed Spokane was ready for a place that served fresh, simple food whose ingredients speak for themselves.”
The fact that city also was home to the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College with an accredited professional baking program sealed the deal.
“I was scared out of my mind” she says of her first few days in class. “There were mixers bigger than me!” And although an accomplished baker, Hannah quickly learned “there was so much involved in professional baking -- safety, the large amounts of ingredients, turning out high volumes of pastry while keeping the quality – but it was so much more fun than pushing paper.”
Her instructors became mentors and friends. Culinary instructor Charlie Martin coached Hannah and Jane as they began restaurant planning. “He always said location was critical so we took our time – between six and 12 months -- to find the perfect location. And here we are – close to downtown, Deaconess Medical Center and catering venues,” Hannah says.
And baking instructor Harry Wibisono “was very much a mentor,” she adds. “He was so supportive when I was diagnosed with cancer and went through chemotherapy shortly after we opened Taste. He’d send over his advanced students as interns. It was a huge help.”
Today, Hannah still works with SCC baking interns under happier circumstances. “And I always interview job applicants from SCC’s culinary programs. They are great programs with serious students,” she said.