In early February, Portland will play host to a collaboration-focused dinner series, bringing some of the West Coast's best chefs to PDX for a mini-conference, of sorts. Chef's Week PDX, scheduled for February 6 to 9, draws inspiration from Austin's Indie Chefs Week and other culinary events that focus on community, says Departure chef Gregory Gourdet, an event co-founder. "I'm always looking for ways to connect our Portland chefs and the answer was to find a way to work together," Gourdet says.
The result: Four nights of collaborative dinners — each centered around a theme, like "Hearth" or "West Coast Modern" — featuring visiting chefs like Matt Dillon (of Seattle's Sitka & Spruce), Craig Thornton (of LA's Wolvesmouth), Joël Watanabe (Vancouver's Bao Bei), and Melissa Chou (of SF's Aziza), among others. Dinners range from $75 (for a seven-course collaboration at Ava Gene's) to $175 (for a blowout, 21-course event at Departure that features all participating chefs). And expect "unofficial" events to spice things up, as well: "We're having three public afterparties so everyone has the opportunity to connect through this project and meet the visiting chefs," Gourdet says.
For the full lineup, head to the official site here, but below, Gourdet reveals how Chef's Week came together and what to expect from a 21-course "West Coast 2014" menu.
How did the idea for Chef's Week PDX come about?
We wanted to do something to highlight Oregon but also showcase cuisine further than our state walls. The greater West Coast is teeming with creativity, unique style, and talent, and we wanted to create a platform for it. The camaraderie of working alongside peers and building an event from ground-up is something that inspires us from the work done at Indie Chefs Week. We love Feast Portland, but everyone is so busy producing that it is sometimes hard to connect with certain chefs you are looking to meet.
What made you decide to go with the format of collaborative dinners? And how did the team decide who would cook with who?
The Portland team came together pretty quickly, as we are such a close group being a small community here. We then asked chefs from major food cities of the West Coast to come to Portland — people we were friends with, had worked with, or had great meals at their restaurants during travels — as well as chefs we had just heard of through others. The dinner themes tie with the hosting restaurants' concepts. The Ava Gene's dinner is hearth-inspired and family style. We felt the Paley's Place dinner was a perfect place to bring together international cuisine chefs, as Paley's cuisine gives a nod to France. The modern chefs team up at Castagna.
Tell me about some of the out-of-town chefs that will be visiting. How did you connect with Craig Thornton and Rachel Yang, for example?
We are really excited to host these chefs. Vancouver, BC has been on my radar for a while, as I have yet to go. Connecting with Angus An and Joël Watanabe has been so cool and we can't wait to eat their food. I met Craig at Indie Chefs Week last year. He used to live here in Portland and works on projects in NYC so we see each other around, coast to coast. He is a true innovator. I am a fan of Rachel's Seattle restaurants and New York City fine-dining pedigree. How she has tied this to the cuisine of her heritage is a great story.
The big blowout event is at Departure, featuring all the chefs. What can diners expect from that one?
For the final dinner we have asked each chef to cook their signature cuisine. We liken this dinner to a culinary tour of the West Coast without leaving the comfort of your table: From explosive Thai flavors and Chinese technique from Vancouver; an awesome mix of the styles which define Seattle; California avant-garde; American tavern from Denver; and of course, all our amazing Portland chefs doing what they do best in so many different ways with our region-defining ingredients. This will be a tasting menu like no other as we experience some of the creativity defining today's food culture in Portland and the entire West Coast.
· Chef's Week PDX [Official site]
· All Previous Event Planning Coverage [Eater PDX]