One of Portland’s largest food empires is toppling, but it’s unclear how permanent the damage might be. In 24 hours, two separate outlets have reported conflicting news regarding the fate of three restaurants in the Toro Bravo restaurant empire: Toro Bravo, Tasty N Daughters, Tasty N Alder have all closed their kitchens, laid off staff, and stopped serving takeout or delivery — and whether those restaurants will reopen is uncertain.
On Wednesday night, the Oregonian reported that Toro Bravo, Tasty N Daughters, and Tasty N Alder would not reopen, along with event space Plaza del Toro. According to the story, multiple sources told the Oregonian that owner Renee Gorham announced this information at a staff meeting Wednesday; the story also says that Gorham confirmed this account.
On Thursday night, Willamette Week reported that Gorham is still undecided: “She has chosen to suspend service at those venues, including takeout and delivery, and lay off much of the staff. But she says she hasn’t decided whether the closures will be for good,” the story reads.
These conflicting reports come just a few days since the founder, chef, and main face of the company, John Gorham, stepped away from the business amid revelations that he threatened a trans woman of color over vandalism of company property. Gorham originally had announced he would be transferring his shares to his partner Renee Gorham, and sell off seven other establishments under the Toro umbrella. On June 24, Renee Gorham told the Oregonian she would be taking control of the company; according to the Oregonian story, Renee Gorham announced at a team meeting Wednesday morning that the company would be dissolved, that the three restaurants would not reopen, and that the event space and kitchen would close once it fulfilled its contracts with nonprofits helping to feed people experiencing food instability.
As first reported by Eater PDX, after discovering that Toro Bravo’s catering vans had been vandalized, John Gorham made an offer on Facebook of a cash reward for information about the perpetrator. When a local woman saw his post, she published photos of the vans to a public Facebook group, praising the artistry and offering cans of free spray paint; she described these statements as jokes in an “obvious post to mock him.” After tracking her down, Gorham began writing posts with her name, as well as a photo of her car and license plate, then messaged her friends and finally her, leveling a threat and making a transphobic remark.
After the screenshots began to surface, Gorham reached out to the woman to offer his apologies and restitutions in the form of a $5,000 donation to NAYA. He was then bought out of the side of the company that included Mediterranean Exploration Company, street food spots Shalom Y’all, falafel restaurant Mama Sesame, Bless Your Heart burger spots, and the yet-to-open Y’alla. Executive chef Kasey Mills will act as president for the newly splintered group, with beverage director Jamal Hassan and service director Laura Amans as co-owners.
In Willamette Week, Renee Gorham says the decision to suspend service at Toro Bravo, Tasty N Alder, and Tasty N Daughters has more to do with the spike of COVID-19 cases than any of the above accounts. Renee Gorham has not responded to Eater Portland’s request for comment.
For years, the Toro Bravo Group was at the forefront of culinary trends in Portland, attracting long lines for its “global” take on brunch at Tasty N Sons on North Williams and packed dining rooms at the small-plates steakhouse Tasty N Alder on weekend nights. Toro Bravo, which debuted in 2007, was the flagship, serving Spanish dishes like pinxtos, tapas, and raciones to Portlanders; Gorham eventually shared many of the restaurant’s recipes in a popular cookbook.
Meanwhile, restaurants including Mediterranean Exploration Company and Bless Your Heart Burger have all reopened for service with new social distancing and mask guidelines, save for the BYH in Pine Street Market, which remains closed.
Updated July 2, 2020, at 12 p.m.
This story has been updated to include details on the sale of the “Team Ron” side of Toro Bravo Group.
Updated July 2, 2020, at 10:03 p.m.
This story has been updated to include the new comment from Gorham within the Willamette Week story, which reports that these restaurants have not permanently closed.
• Portland restaurant group Toro Bravo Inc. dissolving in wake of founder’s Facebook outburst [O]
• John Gorham Steps Away From Restaurant Empire After Threatening Social Media Posts Surface [EPDX]
• Renee Gorham Says Toro Bravo Inc. Is Not Dissolving, but the Future of the Restaurant Group Remains Uncertain [EPDX]
• Previous Toro Bravo coverage [EPDX]