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Beard Winner Jason Wilson on PDX-Seattle Rivalry

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Jason Wilson of Seattle may have won the James Beard nod for Best Chef Northwest over the Portland contingent, but Eater PDX's Christian DeBenedetti interviewed him anyway. (Kidding! Seriously, many congrats to Wilson and his much-deserved win.)

Following the announcement of Wilson's on Monday, DeBenedetti caught up with Crush chef to pick his brain about the differences in the Portland and Seattle food scenes.

On the Portland food scene:
"We love going to Portland. We have family there in Camas and in Portland and in Clackamas, and we think the food scene there is so dynamic. And it’s really put a lot of pressure on what Seattle’s doing as well. We often look to see, ‘O.K., what are they up to, what are they doing?' It’s a dynamic scene there [in Portland] for sure."

On Portland vs. Seattle — who has an edge?
"If you think about products, Portland has better accessibility to products — lamb, beef, meat products, sustainably raised — than we do in Seattle and in Washington. It may be that Seattle is just a more established city. But obviously with the number of nominees, it’s like ‘Portland Rising’ right now. Look at what Seattle’s taken from Portland. And Portland has, what, two blocks of food carts? And we have four in Seattle, expressing the authenticity of the food."

But what about coffee?
"An article on NPR or Seattle Business Journal came out about Seattle not really having excellent coffee anymore [Ed note: Read the NPR piece here], and [saying that] they look at that places like Stumptown in Portland for it, but personally — and I’m biased — but I think Fonte is one of the best. We’ve used their coffee for like 10 years. But Portland is really coming at our heels."

On beating the Portland crew:
"I definitely think it’s not defeat. This is a chance to enjoy your successes, and the fruits of your labor. The people who are working at this level, who are getting nominated — not to mention the award, the people who won the award — this is really an accreditation to the level they work at, and the time and devotion they sacrifice and experience in their life. So by no means is there a loser."

"The third time for us is a charm, but it’s really just a wonderful thing to be nominated and be here."
· All previous James Beard coverage [Eater PDX]

Image of Jason Wilson courtesy delish.com

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