Inspired by SPSCC: Brad Thompson & Marilyn Hartley
Co-owner/Chef & Pastry Chef, Our Table
“The instructors were so instrumental in getting us to where we’re at. Anything I can give to them I certainly will.”
Brad Thompson and Marilyn Harley have a lot in common, including their love for culinary arts and the fact that they both serve in chef roles at Our Table restaurant in Olympia. What else? Both Brad and Marilyn chose to build their culinary education at SPSCC after researching many other options. Their local education was the perfect step to creating a locally sourced restaurant in downtown Olympia that has the community buzzing.
After ten years of working in restaurants across the state, Brad was ready to supplement his front-of-house experience with skills in the kitchen. He was living in Spokane at the time and began searching for culinary arts programs around the state. He came across the Culinary Arts program at SPSCC and found tremendous value in the program’s accreditation through the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and the program’s popularity.
“I started the program in April of 2011 and I was living in Spokane, which meant I commuted every week to Olympia and returned home for the weekends,” said Brad. Eventually he relocated to Olympia and eliminated the commute so he could focus more on the opportunities the program presented to him.
“SPSCC’s Chef Dan is my sensei. He’s a family guy and really connected with me and made sure I had access to every opportunity possible in the community,” shared Brad. While in the program, Brad took advantage of Chef Dan’s support and entered every local cooking competition he could. And he did pretty well at many of them, including taking second place in the Shelton OysterFest.
During and after the program, Brad worked for local establishments from receiving to banquets, and eventually joined up with a partner to open a catering company that started out serving customers at Olympia’s Rhythm & Rye music venue. Eventually, that catering business took off and the two started serving through a food window at the Eastside Club Tavern until opening Our Table restaurant next door in 2015.
“Now we’ve got students working in the restaurant and we’re always going to be that way,” said Brad. “We’re going to try to bring as many students in as we can.”
Since finishing the program, Brad has kept a strong connection with SPSCC. “I got to be part of the ACF reaccreditation, I’ve filled in as an instructor in the classroom, and I’m now part of the Advisory Board for the program,” he said. “It’s so rewarding for me to be able to go back and be somewhat of a peer to the instructors that I worked with.”
Marilyn knew from a young age that she wanted in a future in the arts. When she learned about baking and cooking, however, she discovered a world that she was passionate about pursuing and studying for her entire life.
Marilyn started out in the Baking & Pastry Arts program in 2009 and, after finishing a year later, decided to also take the Culinary Arts program in 2010. “I loved baking and pastry arts so much that I wanted to do two more years of culinary!” she said. This double skillset has made her a highly valuable and well-rounded chef.
“Coming to SPSCC was a good decision for me because it was close to home,” shared Marilyn. “I was able to save some money by living at home after high school. My burning motivation was to get out in the workforce and I definitely got that.”
Marilyn is now the Pastry Chef at Our Table, responsible for handmade breads, doughs, and much more in the kitchen. She also fills in as a server and helps establish the restaurant’s roots in the community. “We’re really becoming engrained in the community and we can feel our roots growing. It’s nice.”
“One of the things that I liked most about getting out here and being somewhat successful is being able to go back to the college and share how I’m applying here what I learned there.” – Brad Thompson