Fat Pastor, Other Local Chefs Celebrate Bite Club Yakima’s First Anniversary
By Molly Allen
Imagine a multi-course dinner prepared for you by incredible chefs, hosted in a field, an abandoned warehouse or another unexpected location.
If that sounds a little too far-fetched for Yakima, think again.
Shawn Niles, along with chefs Gilbert Kalombo and Lara Bodine, started Bite Club Yakima last year as a way to bring something different to the valley.
“We wanted to add something extravagant, something extraordinary to the area,” Niles said.
The three chefs started the exclusive dining club last August and have continued to gain momentum ever since, offering participants the opportunity to experience a meal unlike anything they have ever had before.
Members choose to register without knowing all of the details or dining location, putting their full faith in the talent and creativity of the Bite Club chefs.
The location is only revealed two days prior to the event, adding to the club’s exclusivity.
Now celebrating its one-year anniversary, Bite Club Yakima has more than 100 members, but dinners are kept intimate, serving 25-30 diners per event.
“We want to provide a really different experience,” Niles said. “It’s something that’s never happened here before, and it’s a great way to celebrate our valley.”
According to Niles, dinners are often set up family style, allowing guests to sit at one long table.
“It’s not just about eating the food,” he said. “It allows you to get to know the people you’re sitting with and build relationships with people in our community that you maybe wouldn’t interact with under other circumstances.”
The popularity of Bite Club Yakima has opened up additional avenues for these three self-taught chefs, creating a catering business under Fat Pastor Productions.
“We generally only focus on things we’re passionate about,” said Niles. “All of these opportunities allow us to focus on the high end, the extraordinary and things that we’re really excited about.”
Sharing A Passion
The chef trio also shares a passion for ministry, each playing a role with Dad’s House Church in Yakima.
First and foremost a pastor, Niles established Dad’s House in 2015 and now serves a congregation of close to 100 members.
“I’ve always loved working with youth, and I certainly never thought I would start a church,” he said. “But I had a calling and it fell in place.”
Niles is a 2000 Eisenhower High School graduate who has been working in full-time ministry since he was 19.
He is glad he chose an alternative route, rather than pursuing a four-year degree.
“I ended up doing my schooling online, but to me, my education is still going,” he said.
Niles took his first full-time minister position in New Jersey, but moved back to Yakima in 2006.
Through a love of helping the valley’s youth and a passion for cooking, the Urban Kitchen program, which is partly funded by Bite Club Yakima, was born from Dad’s House.
The free program, open to kids ages 10 to 18, began last July.
The leadership group teaches business and culinary skills to kids who may not have the same opportunities as everyone else.
“We’ve really had great feedback from these kids, especially as they’re able to experience something new,” Niles said. “We took the last class out for dinner at Provisions and the whole time we heard things like, ‘We get to sit down in a fancy restaurant!’ and ‘Wow! We could create something like this.’”
At the end of the three-month program, the kids run their own restaurant for three nights, serving guests and showcasing what they have learned at the Yakima Valley Museum.
Self-Taught ‘Master Chef’
Niles grew up with a love for food and for cooking. He taught himself to cook but he also learned a lot from other people over the years.
Niles said his passion for cooking and his drive to learn more were fueled by a doctor from India that he lived with in New Jersey, an elderly gentleman from Italy and spending time in the kitchen with his wife, Tenielle, a native of Trinidad.
“It all happened very organically,” he said. “I found myself in cool situations and they were willing to teach me, so I took advantage of that.”
Niles took full advantage of his ability to cook, taking it all the way to the popular reality food show, “Master Chef — Season 8” with renowned chef Gordon Ramsay.
“Standing in front of him was really the moment I knew this was meant to be,” he said. “Once someone like Gordon Ramsay, who is my culinary hero, tells you that you’re born to cook and to never stop, it means something.”
Later this fall, Niles and the Bite Club Yakima team will be competing in the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama, participating in the burger competition against 30 other chefs in the world.
“We work together on so many different things, between Bite Club Yakima and Urban Kitchen and everything in between,” Niles said. “But it all comes back to our friendship and family and celebrating all of our skills and creativity.”
To learn more about Bite Club Yakima, visit http://www.thefatpastor.us.
*Originally published in the Yakima Business Times
Originally published in the Yakima Business Times