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Willow Puts a New Spin on the Chef’s Counter Concept

The chef’s counter restaurant has been quietly putting on monthly—and very affordable—line cook dinners

Willow’s Doug Wiler and John Pickett

If you’re a line cook, Willow’s Doug Weiler and John Pickett feel your pain. The hours are long, you earn little, and at the end of the night, you consider yourself lucky if your servers tip you out for your efforts.

That’s why the Weiler and Pickett have been quietly closing their doors to the public on the first Tuesday of every month, and then reopening them to the city’s line cooks. Once those cooks seated—there’s room for 11 of them—they’ll be treated to six courses, courtesy of the two chefs. And the best part? These dinners cost just $13 a head.

“For me, being a cook, it’s important to be able to eat out and treat it like a learning experience,” Weiler says. “You learn a lot in the kitchen, but you can learn just as much by going out to eat. And with what cooks make, that’s very difficult to do, so we try to provide them with an experience that won’t break the bank.”

Last week, the duo treated their peers to steak tartare with potatoes and cheddar cheese foam, custardy eggs with hollandaise and a grilled cheese sandwich, gnocchi, and Rice Krispy treat-like Frosted Flake treats topped with creamsicle ice cream and butter cookies.

But the two chefs see these dinners are more than just a way to feed their peers. They see them as a place to bond and exchange ideas.

“I think it’s super important for cooks to be able to get out and taste new flavors and see new things,” Pickett says. “[The dinners] are kind if a networking hub for cooks to meet each other and share ideas.”

“And you never know where these new relationships will end up,” Pickett adds, hinting that somewhere down the line, these dinners might be what brings together a groups of chefs who might just embark on Portland’s next big culinary thing.

Willow’s Line Cook Dinners are held at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month. The next one is scheduled for April 3. Reservations can be made by emailing Weiler and Pickett at

Willow: 2005 SE 11th Ave.

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