Sean Sigmon says he can't say for sure whether or not he believes that animals possess souls, but after boning up on Buddhist texts as an 18-year-old punk rocker, he made a personal choice that every animal deserved his respect, so he became a vegetarian.
Which, in context, is a little funny, because he got his start cooking at his parents' North Carolina barbecue joints when he was just 12 years old.
But for the last two decades, he says he's had the pleasure of cooking exclusively at vegan restaurants, most recently in Florida, which he left early this year to return home to North Carolina.
But before he could even settle in, Portobello's Aaron Adams dialed him up (the two used to cook and hang when they both lived in the Sunshine State) and told him about the open head chef position at Harvest at the Bindery, a new vegan restaurant opening this spring in The Bindery building on NE Sandy. Owner Jon Steuer says he and Tia Murray, the original chef who had signed on, had amicably and mutually parted ways in early January.
So Sigmon packed up his things again, left home, and made his way to Portland, where he's been for all of about three weeks.
But he says he is jazzed to help create a menu that will be based around two things: seasonality and agrarianism. So expect lots and lots of vegetables, and expect menus to change frequently (Sigmon says that the opening menu could even turn over within a month of opening).
In the meantime, he's working on the opening lunch and dinner menu which will, naturally, feature salads, vegetable share plates, sandwiches that employ sweet potatoes as the "meat," and a couple of composed dinner entrées featuring a grain of some kind and even more vegetables.
So there will be grains, but there will definitely not be tofu or seitan. And there very well may be weekend brunches, although Sigmon admits that even though he's expecting to work some of his Southern cooking techniques into some brunch plates, he hasn't even yet begun to think about how the whole thing will work.
Still, those far-off brunches could throw Portland an unexpected curve: Because what will plant-based vegan brunches taste like in the hands of a man who grew up cooking in lowland barbecue joints? Time will tell.
Harvest at The Bindery (tentatively opening in mid-March), 3101 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland