Chef Karl Holl has cooked at a wine bar and tea shop, at a lauded San Francisco trattoria and in the middle of the forest. Now, he’s making lobster rolls next to a pool in the middle of Central Oregon. And he’s making beet and strawberry salads in a ritzy resort restaurant. And he’s making party-cut pizzas and burgers in a family friendly bar and grill.
Holl, Portland Monthly’s 2018 Chef of the Year, is the new executive head chef at Brasada Ranch, a sprawling, 1,800-acre Powell Butte resort between Bend and Redmond. The resort is home to multiple pools, an athletic center, horses, a golf course, and mountain views, as well as two restaurants, two poolside snack bars, and a general store.
Managing the various food vendors throughout the resort is Holl’s new job, and he’s started incorporating his influence. He transformed the adults-only pool snack bar into a seafood shack, and has shifted the menus at Ranch House and Range to include dishes like elk meatloaf sandwiches and stone fruit-accompanied pork milanesa, respectively. He also brought a little Portland talent with him: Daniel Green, formerly the head baker at places like Ava Gene’s and Tusk, is the executive sous chef, covering the pastry and bread programs throughout the resort.
Holl grew up in Southern Vermont, a “mountain boy,” in his words. “I grew up on a dirt road,” he says. He went to culinary school in New England before heading to California, landing at the Michelin-starred Martini House in Napa. Following a brief stint in Colorado, he migrated to San Francisco proper, becoming chef de cuisine at the lauded Perbacco. After a culinary tour of 80 farms, he moved to Portland, developing a following for his Park Avenue Fine Wines pop-up, Spatzle & Speck, in which Holl served foods raised and grown by his brother, Alex. After years cooking up and down the West Coast, Holl has returned to the mountains — just a little closer to Portland this time.
Below, we’ll break down how Holl is approaching the various restaurants within the resort, with a peek into the changes that are coming in the months ahead.
Holl started his overhaul of Brasada by the pool. Growing up in New England and working on the West Coast, he has a passion for seafood, so he decided to focus on capturing both the East Coast and West Coast in the poolside snack bar. Visitors can find Oregon bay shrimp Louie salad alongside halibut-shrimp burgers with sesame mayo. Holl offers Oregon crab, Maine lobster, or bay shrimp in a choice of three preparations: on a roll, as a cocktail with fried saltines, or as a ceviche. The rolls come either hot with butter or cold with Louie sauce, while the ceviche is tossed with house chipotle salsa, avocado, red onion, and cilantro.
“It’s dear to my heart, being able to highlight Oregon shellfish, the Dungeness crab and the bay shrimp, but to have that East Coast element, as well,” he says. “I like being able to tell a really big story in a lot of different places. I’ve never really had that.”
The pool snack bar primarily focuses on kid-friendly standards like burgers and grilled cheese. The latest addition to the offerings: soft serve, available in the afternoons; soon, he’ll introduce a “dirt cup” with gummy worms and brownie crumble. “I just bought a soft-serve machine because why not,” Holl says. “We’re going to keep it really simple, with hopes of having a really cute program next year.”
Like Sundance, Ranch House is meant to focus on bar-and-grill-esque, kid-friendly fare, but Holl still wanted to put his touch on things. Green developed a Midwestern tavern-style, cracker-y, thin-crust pizza dough that arrives “party cut,” aka in small squares, with flavors like hot chicken with Frank’s Red Hot. The menu starts with appetizers like meatballs and wings, with an assortment of salads — kale tossed with green goddess, a chop salad made with seasonal lettuces. From there, the menu includes a wide range of sandwiches; the elk meatloaf sandwich arrives open-face with cheddar and crispy onions. Entrees range from crispy whole trout with pickled vegetables to orecchiette with Italian sausage and garlic oil.
The Range is the high-end, most ambitious restaurant on the property, which is slowly transforming over the coming months. Currently, the Range’s menu is “a little impression of me right now,” in Holl’s words: A Pacific Northwest shellfish tower with smoked salmon dip and local oysters, stone fruit salads with whipped ricotta and basil, a hot maitake mushroom with crispy polenta and smoked onions. Holl’s particularly excited about his bone marrow-herb encrusted short rib, served with sweet corn pudding, wine-stewed onions, and butter-poached morels.
In terms of the future Range, Holl is currently building relationships with local farmers and ranchers to develop a seasonal menu, still considering the drastic change in scale. “I was serving 30 to 50 people a night at Park Avenue,” he says. “Now I’m serving 700 to 1,000 people per day — but it’s fun for me.”
He’s also researching the region and property itself to give the menu a sense of place. “I’m trying to dig into the history of the ranch, what Brasada is,” he says. “We know where we come from here; it’s more about learning how to create it.”
In the future, Holl hopes to tackle even more, from grilling whole asada on the patio to serving fresh pastries in the resort’s general store. “This is me setting my stage to keep evolving here,” he says. “It takes the community around us to do that; that will come in time.”