When Olivia Starkie started working in New York kitchens, she found more than a career. The Portland-raised chef met two other women, fellow line cooks, who became some of her closest friends. “That was just an amazing experience, to have that sort of community of women,” the Bar Casa Vale alum says. “I hadn’t had very much of that before. That connection felt really special.”
When she moved back to Portland, she noticed kitchens seemed less populated with women. “I feel that women and other people who are gender nonconforming, they are not given the kind of notoriety and credit that they really deserve,” she says. “We have a lot of stories to tell and lots of interesting ways of connecting with each other.”
That became part of the impetus for her pop-up, Last Supper, a tasting menu dinner series highlighting women in the food and wine industry. The kitchen staff consists entirely of women, who collaborate with Starkie on dishes like grilled spring onions with Ayers Creek green wheat shoyu, crispy shallot, and wild onion flower, as well as toasted yeast mousse with fermented kiwi caramel, buttermilk granita, and sesame snap. Meals have optional wine pairings and by-the-glass pours from underrepresented natural winemakers, picked by Berlin Wagar-Kim (Bar Norman, Zev Rovine Selections).
The dishes at Last Supper, while collaborative, often pull from the vegetable-heavy, Jewish-Mediterranean cuisine Starkie grew up with, particularly smoky and briny flavors brought about by sardines or the grill. The upcoming pop-up at Castagna, for instance, includes gem lettuce cups filled with a grilled sardine and an ajo blanco with anchovy, green garlic, and marcona almonds. Growing up, Starkie often visited Portland farmer’s markets, which she still does for current dishes — she gets everything from grape leaves to flowering rabe at the farmer’s market, as well as various seasonal produce from farms like Groundworks Organics and Deep Roots Farm.
The group’s next eight-course pop-up, held at Castagna July 1, costs $65 for dinner, with an optional wine pairing for $25 and glass pours between $8-$10.