OMAK What do pork pot stickers, a chicken croissant sandwich, Kobe beef hot dogs and an 18-ounce rib eye steak all have in common?
Answer: They’re all on menus at the new 12 Tribes Resort Casino, slated to open next week at 28968 U.S. Highway 97.
The 56,000-square-foot casino complex features two restaurants, a nightclub, on-floor bar and a coffee/sweet shop. Next door is an 80-room hotel with indoor pool, indoor-outdoor hot tub, spa, sauna, exercise room and conference facilities.
“The hardest job you’ll ever love is opening restaurants,” Executive Sous Chef Bennett Myall said.
He and Executive Chef Jim Makinson said they’re looking forward to mentoring Colville tribal members and other employees as the casino’s food service gets up and running.
“It will be a quality product,” Myall said.
The 12 Tribes facility is designed to be the Colville Confederated Tribes’ flagship gaming operation. When it opens next Wednesday, the existing Okanogan Casino in Okanogan will close.
The tribe, through the gaming portion of its Colville Tribal Federal Corp. business operation, will continue running Mill Bay Casino in Manson and Coulee Dam Casino.
Myall and Makinson are busy in the new casino’s kitchens, cleaning, prepping, starting up new equipment and training the kitchen and serving staffs. Both have extensive experience in opening and operating restaurants.
Yu Bistro will offer modern Chinese cuisine with a range of appetizers, soups and salads, and main dishes featuring beef, pork, chicken and seafood, noodle and rice dishes, and vegetable-based items.
Diners will find everything from spring rolls and crab Rangoon to hot and sour soup, wok-seared broccoli beef, crispy honey chicken, Singapore street noodles, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and spicy Sichuan asparagus.
“Asian is the hottest cuisine on the planet,” Myall said. “It can be healthy and it quickly lends itself to a higher-end style.”
“It will not be run-of-the-mill American Chinese,” Makinson said.
Yu’s kitchen is outfitted with several woks and features an open style so customers can watch chefs at work.
“My food’s going to be smokin’ hot and will look great,” Myall said.
He’s worked in the restaurant industry since age 16. He attended Washington State University, where he studied hospitality management with minors in food science and Spanish.
Over the years, he’s worked in a variety of jobs, from dishwasher at a Red Robin to opening seven P.F. Chang’s Asian restaurants. He’s worked mostly in Asian cuisine, but also was in management at a Spanish restaurant in California and was a wine buyer for P.F. Chang’s. He’s worked in both large and small restaurants in California, Pennsylvania and Florida.
“You go where the game is,” he said.
He first came to Okanogan County to fish with his brother, Lloyd, who works for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. He also enjoys playing golf.
Makinson, a native of Great Britain, was educated in that country and has worked in London, Switzerland, Hawaii, Tokyo, California and on cruise ships plying the seas around Hawaii, the South Pacific and Alaska.
In the latter capacity, he was responsible for serving 10,000-12,000 meals per day.
He also did a stint at Safeco Field in Seattle and opened the Swinomish Tribe’s banquet facility.
Makinson is classically French trained.
His portion of the 12 Tribes food service offerings is the Camas Dining Room, an upscale American-style restaurant.
That facility will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The breakfast menu offers everything from oatmeal with raisins to French toast with berry compote, huevos rancheros or steak and eggs. Pure maple syrup will be available, and should appeal to the facility’s Canadian guests, Makinson said.
Lunch offerings range from soups and salads to angel hair pasta with basil-tomato sauce with shrimp to buttermilk chicken or hamburgers. Panini sandwiches also should be a popular choice, the chefs said.
Dinner runs the gamut, from beer-battered fish and chips to New York sirloin and cedar-planked King salmon.
Children’s menus will go beyond the chicken fingers-and-French fries or mac-and-cheese fare often offered by restaurants.
“We’ll offer fruit cups and other stuff besides the usual,” Makinson said. “If you’re paying $180 a night (at the hotel), you want something healthy your kids will enjoy.”
And, while they’re working with suppliers to buy fresh fish from Seattle and seasonal items such as ramps and fiddlehead ferns, Makinson and Myall said they’re also trying to buy as many local products as they can. That includes produce from local growers and meats from Double R Ranch in Loomis and Gebbers Farms in Brewster.
That local focus extends to the restaurants’ staff, which so far numbers 47 people - 80 percent of them tribal members.
“We’re training local folks, Makinson said.
“Hire for attitude, train for skill,” Myall said.
Although many staff members don’t have much experience in high-end dining, the chefs said some of the equipment they’ve purchased for the restaurants will help fill in the gaps.
Chief among that equipment are computerized ovens that can do everything from proofing and baking bread to roasting prime rib to precisely heating dozens of plated meals so everyone at a banquet can be served at once.
“His kitchen is very ‘Star Trek.’ Mine is 2,000 years old,” Myall said of Makinson’s high-tech ovens compared to his woks.
Another special oven will allow the chefs to turn out pizzas for the bar menu.
And, while many of the restaurants’ customers are expected to be people who have traveled to the resort to gamble, the chefs also want to appeal to local residents.
“We want to keep local clientele, and perhaps educate them on different food, as well as the out-of-town people,” Makinson said.
Both expect their menus to evolve over time.
“What people ask for is what we’re going to give them,” Myall said. “We will make homemade sauces, dressings and so on.”
Although some of the prices are higher than what Okanogan County residents customarily see, such as a $38 bone-in rib eye steak, other items are at the lower end of the scale.
Yu Bistro’s prices range from $7.95 to about $15.
“You have the atmosphere of a resort here, too,” Makinson said. “We have lots of banquets booked here already. We want people to come back.”
“It is filling up fast for banquets” for everything from birthdays to company dinners, resort spokeswoman Stephanie Day said.
The resort offers an extensive catering and banquet menu, with both buffet and plated options available.
“The kitchen is set up for larger capacity” than what is initially expected to serve the casino crowd alone, Makinson said, adding that he scrapped much of the initial kitchen design and equipment after he was hired and retooled the operation.
Along with the two restaurants, 12 Tribes will offer several other eating and drinking opportunities. A baker/pastry chef will produce baked goods for all the tribal casinos.
A coffee and sweet shop, just off the gaming floor and near the hotel entrance, will offer coffee, fresh Danish pastries, savory appetizers, chocolates and other candies, and ice cream. A special machine can produce more than 110 different coffee drinks.
On the opposite side of the gaming floor is a small bar, Element 78.
Evolution, the facility’s nightclub, will offer a full bar menu. A movable wall between the nightclub and Yu will allow a larger seating area for entertainment that will include bands, comedians and televised events such as fights.
“It will be the 21- to 45-year-old see and be seen location,” said Myall, who said he’s designing a line of Asian-inspired cocktails featuring fresh fruit, sake and other items. “Mixology is a passion of mine.”
And those Kobe beef hot dogs? They’re on the bar menu.
“They’re really, really good,” Makinson said of the franks from Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series on the opening of the new 12 Tribes Resort Casino.