Gregory Gourdet Works to Build a Better Restaurant in Portland

As Mr. Gourdet sat in the kitchen at Kann Winter Village last month, a side door opened to the exterior 10-yurt “village”, provided by American Express as part of a nationwide program. Tia Vanich, director of project operations and Mr. Gourdet’s business partner, was helping to refresh the tents before the next service. In January, dining out was still banned in Portland. (These restrictions were lifted earlier this month.)

“Without the yurts, we are not in business,” Ms. Vanich said.

Mr. Gourdet’s attempt to create a more inclusive and harmonious work environment is more evident in Kann’s kitchen. “I could have endowed this place with a bunch of white men in, like, literally five minutes,” he says. “But as a gay black man, and with all that was going on with calculus and George Floyd, I didn’t want to do that.”

In the kitchen, Varanya Geyoonsawat, 35, who as sous chef is the highest-ranking kitchen employee behind Mr. Gourdet, worked alongside Jasmyne Romero-Clark, 27, preparing the three menus of six course tasting – a pescatarian, a vegan. , an omnivore – served five evenings a week. Each menu included a salad of ripe plantains, squash and marinated apples in a cashew vinaigrette, a version of joumou soup, and an upside-down banana cake draped in hot coconut cream.

Kann’s food, much of which is served in polished Staub pots, is considerably more rustic than the modern Pan-Asian cuisine that Mr. Gourdet was originally known for. He acknowledges that the glitzy rooftop restaurant is out of step with the earthy, do-it-yourself aesthetic of the chef-owned restaurants that put Portland on the map.

He mentioned Ms Geyoonsawat, who, along with Ms Romero-Clark, worked at Departure towards the end of her tenure, as a chef whose talents he did not fully recognize in Departure’s vibrant kitchen. He said you needed to work more closely with her, testing recipes for her cookbook, just to realize that she had the ability to run Kann’s cooking.

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