An Interview with Chef Cory Hoekstra Of Michael Jordan’s Steak House at ilani Casino Resort


pFriem Beer Dinner at Michael Jordan’s Steak House. (photo by Ryan Spencer)

Executing tasting menus with beverage pairings can be a difficult endeavor. Maintaining temperatures of hot food, cold beer, and explaining courses to guests are just a few of the concerns on your staff’s mind. Not to mention the long periods of trial and error leading up to the dinner. This is all done to ensure that your hard work in execution isn’t wasted on a sub-par pairing. Being an occasional host of beer dinners, I’m always excited to talk to other chefs and figure out how they attempt this masochistic task.

Last week Bill Murnighan (Bailey’s Taproom) and I had the opportunity to attend Michael Jordan’s Steak House’s beer dinner at ilani Casino Resort in Ridgefield, WA. For their first attempt at a tasting menu/coursed out dinner, Chef Cory Hoekstra and General Manager Brian Napiany reached out to Hood River brewery pFriem Family Brewers for pairings. After the dinner, I had a chance to chat with Cory about the concept for the series and how they prepared for the event.

Brian Napiany (General Manager), Cory Hoekstra (Chef) and Miriam Bradley (pFriem Sales Manger) at Michael Jordan’s Steak House. (photo by Ryan Spencer)

How was the concept of this particular dinner conceived? Did pFriem reach out first or did you guys get in contact with them?

Cory: The beer dinner was conceived by a simple visit from pFriem into the casino, I had mentioned to the sales rep that pFriem was one of my favorite breweries and I always make it a point to stop by the brewery on any trip to Hood River. We started talking and right away came up with an idea together to do a beer dinner.

Was this the first beer dinner for Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse? Are you planning on doing more? If so, do have any scheduled?

Cory: This was our first beer dinner, and each month we’ll be doing some form of dinner pairing, for example, the month of October we’re working with a female wine maker and donating proceeds to a breast cancer awareness charity.

Michael Jordan’s Steak House at ilani Casino Resort in Ridgefield, Washington.

What was the pairing process like for this dinner? How were beers and courses selected? Did pFriem have any input on pairings or did they leave you guys in full control?

Cory: pFriem brought me samples of several of their summer offerings and allowed me creative control over the pairings; the beers and courses selected was a product of sampling with both my family and chef team discussing flavor profiles, incorporating our core menu, and how we could twist our menu to adhere to some of these flavors pFriem was offering.

What were some of the obstacles that you found when planning and executing a dinner like this? Any surprises while planning the pairings (flavor interactions that did or didn’t work)?

Cory: I think overall we didn’t run into too many obstacles, as the weeks went on we further enhanced some of our offerings, i.e.- poaching the cocktail shrimp in the Mexican Lager was a last minute enhancement. If I had to change one thing, it would be the changing the Tuna Crudo dish we served into something that’s more recognizable; for some reason I’m finding raw tuna is a hard sell here.