Quaintrelle has gone through a few distinct eras. When it first opened on Mississippi in 2016, chef Bill Wallender was at the helm, an alumnus of Ava Gene’s with a sharp focus on Oregon produce. After Wallender left, the globe-trotting chef Ryley Eckersley took over, adding a more eclectic and exuberant energy to the restaurant. Quaintrelle moved south to Clinton Street, where Eckersley and cocktail maven Camille Cavan held court in a sliver of a space.
Cavan left in the fall, followed by Eckersley in January. But now, the ownership team at Quaintrelle has brought in an icon to help usher in the next stage of the restaurant: award-winning chef Naomi Pomeroy, of the nationally celebrated (and dearly departed) Beast in Northwest Portland and longstanding cocktail destination Expatriate. Together, they’re hoping to “take [Quaintrelle] to the next level,” in the words of co-owner Emily Everett, growing the restaurant’s existing team as opposed to poaching outside talent.
Back in October, Pomeroy had a transition of her own: She closed her restaurant and market, Ripe Cooperative, leaving the intimate space she has occupied since 2007. The building was once home to Beast, one of Portland’s great fine dining restaurants; when she decided to turn the space into Ripe Cooperative, it was in the midst of a rapidly shrinking fine dining scene nationwide, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. After closing Ripe, she wasn’t sure what would be next; the consulting gig for Quaintrelle seemed like an exciting way to utilize the last 20 years’ worth of experience she has accumulated. “I feel this very new, energetic zest for preserving the industry, and making sure that fine dining doesn’t start to disappear,” Pomeroy says. “There are lots of things that have been needing to change in the industry, and I’d like very much to continue to be at the forefront of that.”
Pomeroy isn’t stepping in as the restaurant’s chef; instead, she’s focusing on growing and strengthening the team as a whole. The to-do list includes archiving and “memorializing” the kitchen’s recipes, in her words, and working with staff to incorporate produce from Quaintrelle’s partner farm, Abbey Road. But most importantly, she will be meeting individually with employees to understand their goals and needs. And when she means everyone, she means everyone — from wine manager Chris Cooper to chef de cuisine Justin Friday, from pastry chef Mandy Groom to lead server Owen Perry. “We’re reflecting back and starting to help [the team] create their visions,” Pomeroy says. “A lot of it is just going to be investigative, in terms of finding out the mission and trying to help make a really clear path toward the goals.”
In her perspective, much of the next steps will involve trust-building and collaboration; to get started, she’s reintroducing a tactic that dates back to her days at Beast. In 2014, in Beast’s heyday, she decided to introduce a “daily lineup” to the agenda at the restaurant. The whole team — including front-of-house — would taste through the menu and offer feedback. At Quaintrelle, she wants to do the same, allowing the whole team to taste and evaluate the restaurant’s dishes and cocktails. “Working with everybody to learn how to give and receive critique is this incredible team-building exercise,” Pomeroy says. “It really helps to eliminate any divide between front of house and back of house. When the door is open, and everyone’s allowed to give and receive feedback, it really ends the divisions.”
Everett and the rest of the ownership team hopes that, in the weeks ahead, Pomeroy can help create the systems that allow the restaurant to succeed after she leaves. “Building this foundation — these are our systems, this is how we do things, this is how we develop recipes — is going to help us make sure that the overall experience of Quaintrelle is going to be consistent,” Everett says. “Having this opportunity to collaborate with a seasoned veteran ... bringing this new lens to the restaurant, to help us see what we’re not seeing, will help make positive changes to be the best we can be.”
Quaintrelle is located at 2032 SE Clinton Street.