Located on NE Alberta, Natural Selection has been a beacon of plant-based cooking, both in Portland and around the nation. But despite its natural success, Natural Selection is closing—its last dinner June 11.
"My wife and I made a conscious decision to spend more time with family," says owner and chef Aaron Woo. "I'm really proud of where Natural Selection has landed in the culinary world. I mean, people really embraced this style of food, and we had a seven-page spread in Sunset. I didn't set out to do that."
Despite being a meat eater, Woo launched the upscale, all-vegetarian (and mostly vegan) Natural Selection on March 16, 2011, and he quickly revealed just how delicious plant-based cooking can be, if taken it seriously. Since the beginning, Natural Selection has offered prix fixe menus, with two options per course, and for its final weeks in business, it's offering a special 5-course menu.
Woo says Natural Selection is currently more popular than ever, but he and his wife are aiming for more family time, with plans to move into the country.
Woo has sold the restaurant space to Javier Canteras, the chef who operates the Basque Supper Club pop-up and recently won $150,000 on Restaurant Startup. "Javier has a lot of energy and good momentum going," says Woo, "so he's going to take it and run." (More on this to come shortly, here on on Eater.)
But Woo still owns the Natural Selection name, and he says Natural Selection may return as a pop-up down the road. "I know myself," he says. "I know what chefs go through when they walk away from the culinary world they love."
Where exactly Natural Selection's pop-up dinners will be held is unclear, whether here in Portland, or in a nearby locale, but Woo will continue doing what he loves: Cooking for family, friends, and those who love his food.
"When it comes down to it, I've pretty much given the past 20 years of my life to the culinary world," he says. "After taking the roller coaster, we want to reclaim a little time for ourselves."