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What It's Like to Be Part of an American Cooking Power Couple

Ox’s Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton takes you into the kitchen

Chef Gabrielle Quiñónez-Denton and her dogs Nico (left) and Mabel
Dina Avila/EPDX

Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton is one half of the cooking talent behind Portland’s iconic South American steakhouse, Ox, and this year, for the third time, she and husband Greg Denton are finalists for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest. Eater caught up with Quiñónez Denton to see how she and Denton became one of the country’s most famous chef couples.

Quiñónez Denton first began cooking when she was in college at UC Berkeley, gathering inspiration from the vegetarian cookbooks of Mollie Katzen. Once committed to cooking, she delved into chef-author Madeleine Kamman because of her “holistic” and “interdisciplinary” approach to cooking. Quiñónez Denton says Kamman taught her to research a dish’s origins—where it’s eaten and its history.

“I always find it interesting to see its most traditional version versus the adjustments that have been made to a dish over time,” she says. "To this day, if I'm interested in cooking a classic recipe, I'll look up ten different variations of it before preparing it myself."

After graduating from culinary school, she landed a job at Michelin-starred Terra restaurant in Napa Vally in 1999, and that’s where she met Denton. “He trained me on most of the kitchen stations, and we’ve worked together almost nonstop since.”

For years, the simple fact the couple were inseparable led to jobs in the same kitchens, including a five-year stint in Hawaii. They made the move to Portland in 2008, when Denton became the executive sous chef at Lucier, the restaurant that was overly ambitious but credited with bringing a lot of cooking talent to Portland.

When things went south at Lucier, Denton applied for a job as head chef of the soon-to-open Metrovino. Quiñónez Denton also received a position.

“I helped Greg prepare the tasting menu for the owner, and by that time, it was really our food. The owner saw how we worked together and hired us both.”

When it came time to open Ox, Denton and Quiñónez Denton felt their food was truly a collaborative cuisine. Accordingly, they didn’t create a cooking hierarchy between them in the kitchen. The chefs share every aspect of the cooking process at both of their restaurants, Ox and Superbite.

Quiñónez Denton says to this day she still receives guidance from the owners of Terra, the very restaurant in which she and Denton met. “Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani are still really good friends of ours, and mentors,” says Quiñónez Denton. “We are always able to count on them to help us navigate the landscape and the issues of, well, working side by side, 24-7, with the person you love.’”

Ox

2225 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Portland, Oregon 97212 Visit Website

SuperBite

527 SW 12th Avenue, Portland, OR 97205 Visit Website

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