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Davis St. Tavern's New Chef Talks Food, Family & Flavors

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Katy Jane Millard (right) is the new chef at Davis Street Tavern, following in the footsteps of chef/owner Gabriel Kapustka and (a short-lived stint by) Scott Shampine. Katy comes to Portland via the Bay Area where, until recently, she was the chef de cuisine at Plum. Right about now, she's rolling out her tweaks to the Davis Street Tavern menu. Here's what she has to say to Eater about her new gig.

When did you become a chef?
This is my first job as executive chef. I started cooking with my dad when I was a little girl. It was a way we spent time together when I was young... he was, and still is, passionate about food. My sisters and I would go over to my dad's house twice a week, and cooking dinner became the focus of the evening. He had a beautiful herb garden, and I remember fresh herbs being part of my childhood at both my mother's, and father's houses. I went to college at Michigan State, majoring in hospitality business, then went to Europe after I graduated. I fell in love with France and stayed there for five years, working in four different Michelin-starred restaurants, in Paris, Monaco, and on the Cote d'Azur. I have wandered quite a bit.

Where did you work in California?
I was Daniel Patterson's sous chef at Coi, chef at a little bar (wonderful place!) called 15 Romolo for a little while. I helped them revamp their food program while waiting for [Patterson's new Oakland restaurant] Plum to open. I was chef de cuisine at Plum until I moved here.

What brings you to Oregon?
Family. My mom, sister, and niece and nephews live in Eugene. Portland was the obvious food town close to the fam...I've been traveling around for a long time. I need to be closer to family.

What is different about the food scene in California compared to Oregon?
California is very product driven. It's kind of the proverbial land of milk and honey. There are amazing farmers growing amazing food, and foragers and such too. They are very lucky to have a growing season that is much longer, and in the winter, you have amazing citrus, chicories, so there is no shortage of inspiration, or product that comes literally from just down the road. The farmers markets operate year round. I feel like in Portland, people have a real passion for everyday food. The cooks here have taken the food that we eat all the time, and thrown all of their energy and creativity into it, and the result is a place where eating out is not a stuffy, for the wealthy pass-time, but something everyone does as a god-given right. I love that! Portland has the best comfort food I have tasted in a long time.

What are your plans with the menu at Davis Street?
I want the menu at DST to match the atmosphere: fun and sexy, with an undertone of rustic and traditional. The decor here is very new old world. There are wrought iron chandeliers, exposed beams in the ceilings, but the crowd has amazing energy. I would love to give people food that they recognize somehow, but make it more elegant, a little tongue in cheek, and more sexy... I want to make the menu, above all, more seasonal, and a bit more local... if we don't support our community, how can we expect them to support us?

For example, we have a new sandwich, house cured albacore tuna conserva (Arbequina olive oil) with sauce gribiche and pickled celery. It's kinda like a fancy tuna salad sandwich, but much more delicious and served on Pearl Bakery ciabatta bread. We also have a veal cheek bourguignon. Veal cheek braised for five hours with veal stock and red wine, served with French style mashed potatoes (lots of butter!), glazes heirloom carrots and cippolini onions, and parsley. Homey, but elegant.

What excites you about food?
Seasons. I love tasting peaches, or cherries, or tomatoes, or kumquats again, after a whole year of not eating them, and saying to myself, Damn, I really missed this! Taste and smell are so intertwined with memory that eating can evoke the most wonderful of nostalgias... eating has always been something that iI have done with people I love, for celebration, gathering together, or simple beautiful nourishment. Remembering food with people I love makes me happy beyond anything I can explain. I also love learning about new food, flavors, techniques that i don't know. Cooking with people is invaluable in my life. Everyone has something to share when it comes to food.
· Davis Street Tavern [Official site]
· All Previous Davis Street Tavern Coverage [Eater PDX]

Davis Street Tavern

500 NW Davis Street, Portland, OR 97209 503 505 5050

Davis Street Tavern

500 NW Davis St., Portland, OR

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