This summer, see the many places and meet the many faces of Skagit.
Meet Chris Gochenour. He’s part of the culinary team behind Skagit’s hottest dinner reservation—the immensely popular Dam Good Chicken Dinner. When he’s not cranking out chicken for hungry visitors, you can catch Chris serving up meals at the Gorge Inn, a dining hall in Newhalem that caters to City Light employees and workers. Chris recently sat down with us for a quick chat about cooking, chicken and tradition.
What attracted you to working in Skagit?
“Working at a national park. I used to work at Denali National Park as a head chef at one of the park’s lodges. I’ve always liked working in this type of environment so here I am.”
Can you share a little bit about the history of the area?
“There used to be a train that came up here in the early 1900s which allowed folks to see the landscape up here and enjoy the mountains. It also helped to promote the Skagit Hydroelectric Project and educate people about the dams.”
The Dam Good Chicken Dinner is longstanding tradition here at the Gorge Inn. Tell us about that.
“The dinner is a signature stamp of the Gorge Inn. It’s a tradition that goes back to the 1930s. When we cook this meal, we’re recreating the magic of the dinner that was served back then. A lot of people have passed through these doors JUST for this dinner. It’s cool to be part of its history—to serve a historic meal. It’s only featured in the summer so it’s in demand when the season comes around.
“The chicken itself is oven baked, but somehow, some way it looks like regular fried chicken. It’s breaded, buttered and cooked at a high temperature. It’s a recipe that has been passed down for generations. The dinner comes with a side of mashed potatoes which are cooked with rosemary and garlic. We also infuse thyme into the cream. Fresh green beans and homemade gravy complete the entrée.
“Then there’s dessert. We bake a fresh pie each dinner. Our usual flavors are peach and apple blueberry—all locally sourced ingredients. We’ve also served other flavors; it just depends on the season.”
Tell us about the people who attend the Damn Good Chicken Dinner.
“A lot of people from the nearby campgrounds will plan the dinner as part of their trip. We have a lot of families. Other folks have heard about it in Seattle and make a little road trip out of it. Then, of course, there are those who book it as part of the Ladder Creek Falls tour, which makes for a great evening here.”
Can you describe the vibe of the Gorge Inn on these dinner nights?
“It’s friendly—a communal atmosphere. A lot of folks talk to one another. They meet new people sitting at their tables, talk about similar interests and learn what they might have in common. It always happens that a group will meet hiking on a trail and then they unexpectedly run into each other at the dinner. Everyone is generally pretty happy by the end of the meal.” T
hank you, Chris, for providing a sneak peek of the “Skagit Magic” one can expect when visiting the Gorge Inn, an historic part of Seattle City Light’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project which provides clean, low-cost, renewable power to Seattle. To learn more or to secure your reservation for the Dam Good Chicken dinner, click here.