in partnership

A tasty summer showdown right here in Seattle

The annual Bite of Seattle kicks off Friday, July 21 and runs through the weekend at Seattle Center. Besides all the great food and drink, you can also watch local professionals in action performing cooking demonstrations at the Bite Cooks stage. Our region has its share of culinary geniuses, but not all of them planned a career in the kitchen.

Megan Coombes went to Germany for college, studying international relations and economics. When she returned to the states, she spent 10 years working with nonprofits by helping them with fundraising. And then, her life took a complete 180.

"I realized I wanted to do something different, something that I felt a bit more passionate about that really used my creativity, that really interacted with people more directly," said Coombes. "And, I decided to go to culinary school."

From there, Coombes spent nine months in an evening program through the culinary institute in New York, and she says the rest is history.

"Culinary school is one of those things people have different opinions," explained Coombes. "As someone who was 29 going into this as a career and never having been in the service industry, it was invaluable for me."

Invaluable indeed. She's now owner and chef at Alstadt in Seattle's Pioneer Square.

"It is a northwest German restaurant. We use northwest ingredients, really drawing from the produce and resources we have in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho to create traditional, authentic-feeling German cuisine," continued Coombes.

For Megan, German cuisine has a special place in her heart.

"I lived in Germany in high school and again in college. And my ancestry is German," she said. "When I went to Germany in high school, I didn't speak much German. Food was my first introduction, and a way for me to connect to my host family. A big part of the family time was always sitting down for dinner, sitting down for breakfast. So, it was kind of how my relationship with my host family developed through the foods and the traditions they evoked."

As for who really kick started Coombes' desire to cook as a child growing up in Portland? The one and only, Julia Child.

"Julie Child was one of those fun things we'd do together," she continued. "Either with my mom, my sister or my grandma because it was something we could all relate to on some level. Not a lot of things parents have in common with kids, but I think cooking is one of the most amazing ways to really bring families together."

The restaurant isn't the only place to see Coombes in action. You can wine and dine with her Sunday, July 23 at Bite of Seattle's VIP experience called The Bite Cooks! Lounge.

"I'm excited. This is the first year this is happening at the Bite," said Coombes. We will be doing schnitzel sliders on pretzel buns with a lemon, parsley slaw. We can just talk about German food, about questions they might have about the different ingredients. We'll have recipe cards for everything and hopefully it will inspire people to go home and make some great food after they've eaten it all at the Bite."

Get your ticket to The Bite Cooks! Lounge here.