Home » Portland Oregon’s Lgbt Tastemakers: Chefs, Distillers, Bakers, And More!

Portland Oregon’s Lgbt Tastemakers: Chefs, Distillers, Bakers, And More!

by Lawrence Ferber

Meet six incredible Portland tastemakers from outstanding pastry gurus and vegan chefs to a distiller who makes spirits from kombucha.

Here, we introduce you to six incredible Portland tastemakers, from outstanding pastry gurus and vegan chefs to a distiller who makes spirits from kombucha.

If we learned anything from eight seasons of Portlandia, Portland, Oregon is one of the country’s meccas for progressives, hipsters, artisans, and foodies. In fact, the culinary scene is not only supreme, with high standards for local sourcing, provenance of Pacific Northwest ingredients, and a housemade ethos, but it’s also one where LGBT chefs and restaurateurs shine. Their presence and success continues to grow: James Beard Award semifinalist and 2015 Top Chef contestant, Gregory Gourdet, is one of the city’s most beloved chef rock stars and he heads up buzzing pan-Asian restaurant Departure (525 SW Morrison St. Tel: 503-802-5370. www.departureportland.com) at The Nines hotel. Here, we introduce you to six incredible Portland tastemakers, from outstanding pastry gurus and vegan chefs to a distiller who makes spirits from kombucha. “If you’re coming to Portland for food, be sure to time your visit for the Feast Portland festival in mid September,” adds Tim Healea of bakery Little T. “It’s a four-day event that features both local and national talent, and it’s the best way to sample everything the Portland scene has to offer. Also, the weather is always fantastic in September.”

Sarah Schafer, Chef, Irving Street Kitchen

Born in Buffalo and raised in Boston, Schafer garnered experience at NYC’s Eleven Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern, as well as San Francisco’s Frisson and Anchor and Hope. She moved to Portland in 2010 and opened Irving Street Kitchen in the Pearl District, fusing East and West Coast American cuisine. (701 NW 13th St. Tel: 503-343-9440. www.irvingstreetkitchen.com)

Sarah Schafer, Chef, Irving Street Kitchen

Sarah Schafer, Chef, Irving Street Kitchen

What is one of your proudest signature creations at Irving Street Kitchen?
The Irving Street gravlax. It begins with the cleanest farm-raised salmon from the pristine tidal coastal waters of Skuna Bay, B.C. When the fish is harvested, cleaned, and packed on ice it’s sealed and signed by that person, sent directly to me, and I’m the only one who’s supposed to open it. What a provenance! Then we season, zest and herb it up for three days with a couple of secret ingredients, and it is divine. People have threatened me if I ever take it off the menu. We’re also bombarded by loyal devotees of our butterscotch pudding, laced with Scotch and topped with caramel.

Why is Portland such a great city for LGBT culinary folks?
I think it’s a great city for whatever your job or dream and preference of lifestyle. It’s cool to be weird here.

What are some of your favorite Portland-made food products and/or spirits?
Walter Collective Gin. I love gin, but not overly dry or pine-driven. I like Walter Collective mostly because of its fresh citrus and being just dry enough.

How about favorite local spots to eat?
Bhuna Kitchen (www.facebook.com/bhunarestaurant), a pop-up. My friend Deepak brings a modern, beautiful bright quality to his Indian bowls and salads. The eggplant and tomato dish was the most memorable thing I’ve had in awhile. Duck House (1968 SW 5th Ave. Tel: 971-801-8888. www.facebook.com/duckhousepdx), just the best Chinese in town. And Handsome Pizza (1603 NW Killingsworth St. Tel: 503-247-7499. www.handsomepizza.com). Thin and wood fired the way it’s meant to be.

Which Portland foodie Instagram and social media do you follow and recommend?
@Pechluck. Her blog is interesting and authentic. Kelly Cox’s @OriginalFare. She’s a trendsetter who looks out for the little guy and wants to create positive change.

You were the first female sous chef at Gramercy Tavern, and Julia Child personally thanked you after she ate there. Thinking ahead, which celebrity would you most love to see come in or enjoying your food?
Charlize Theron is a crush I’ve always had, but seriously I would most love to have Danny Meyer in. I worked for him for so many years, I’d love for him to see what I’ve built.

Tim Healea, Pastry Chef, Little T

Born in nearby Longview, Washington, Healea moved to Portland in 1998 and a decade later opened bakery Little T (2600 SE Division St. Tel: 503238-3458. www.littletbaker.com), his nickname while an intern and head baker at Pearl Bakery.

Why is Portland such a great city for LGBT chefs?
You can be yourself and feel like you fit in. When I first moved here 20 years ago, there was definitely more of a small-town feel. Especially in the past five years or so, the LGBT community has grown and become more diverse, along with the city and the culinary scene. There’s something here for every taste.

Timothy Healea, Little T

Timothy Healea, Little T

What are a few of your proudest signature creations?
The Little T baguette is still the best thing we make. It’s just four ingredients, but the dough is cold-fermented for 20 hours and it develops a wonderful, rich flavor that’s really unique. Also our croissant is killer. It’s doing the basic things really well that makes me the most proud.

What are a few of your favorite spots to eat?
Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty (4039 N Mississippi Ave. Tel: 503-281-4060. www.lovelysfiftyfifty.wordpress.com) is my go-to for Sarah Minnick’s innovative pizza with seasonal produce from Oregon’s best farms. I’m loving a few newish Asian spots with counter service. Kyo Koo’s Beijing street food restaurant, Danwei Canting (803 SE Stark St. Tel: 503-2366050. www.danweicanting.com), Earl Ninsom’s Southern Thai fried chicken place Hat Yai (1605 NE Killingsworth St. Tel: 503-794-9701. www.hatyaipdx.com), and Jasper Shen’s soup dumpling emporium XLB (4090 N Williams Ave. Tel: 503-841-5373. www.xlbpdx.com).

What are some of your favorite locally produced, Portland-made food products?
I grill a lot in the summer, and we always have these sauces on the table: Nong’s Khao Man Gai Sauce, Marshall’s Habanero Carrot Curry Haute Sauce, and Podnah’s Pit BBQ sauce. On the sweet side, Woodblock Chocolate is totally amazing.

Which Portland foodie Instagram and social media accounts do you follow and recommend?
My friend Kristen Murray of Maurice, @miette1965, because her food is just so gorgeous, and Sarah Minnick from Lovely, @sarahminnick_, because she’s so inspiring and sassy.

Which celebrity would you most love to see come in and enjoy your food?
I would die if Kylie Minogue walked in. Or k.d. lang. Lang has a condo just over the Willamette River in NW Portland, but I have a feeling she doesn’t eat wheat.

Cyrus Ichiza, Chef, Ichiza Kitchen

Born in San Agana, Guam, Ichiza settled in Portland three years ago and in 2017 opened and runs his vegan pan-Asian restaurant and teahouse with his boyfriend of six years, Ryan Wythe. (1628 SW Jefferson St. Tel: 503-7028374. www.ichizakitchen.com)

What’s the philosophy and inspiration behind Ichiza Kitchen and what are a few of your proudest signature creations?
Some of the inspiration for the restaurant was my longing to experience ShojinRyori, or temple/shrine food, which is served in the dining halls of shrines and served teishoku-style, and it’s the same food that the monks eat. Another facet of the Ichiza Kitchen experience is that we curate a pan-Asian menu and usually run specials featuring southeast Asian/Pacific Island regional dishes that just weren’t available in vegan form before. My chicken adobo, traditional stewed chicken cuts with onions, garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce, is made with a nonGMO fermented soy protein with the texture of the most tender chicken breast.

Cyrus Ichiza, Ichiza Kitchen

Cyrus Ichiza, Ichiza Kitchen

Why is Portland such a great city for LGBTQ culinary folks?
Portland’s culture really values inclusivity and solidarity with all those involved in the cultivation and production of food. This is really important as a vegan chef, because I’m trying to encourage folks to be open to plant-based proteins and meat alternatives whose impact is broadly related to reducing climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. A lot of LGBTQ folks have always been at the forefront of fighting against climate change, as they have historically been at the forefront of many social-environmental justice movements.

What are a few of your favorite restaurants, food pods, and chefs?
Nudi House Noodle Place (4310 SE Woodstock. Tel: 503-477-7425. www.nudipdx.com) is a restaurant that occasionally features chefs from Thailand. Their plating is so lovely with ambience to match. I also never miss a chance to indulge in a French dip and fries from Black Water (835 NE Broadway St. Tel: 503-281-0439. www.facebook.com/black-water-1576782595871962). I’m excited to try Paiche (4237 SW Corbett Ave. Tel: 503-403-6186. www.paichepdx.com), a Peruvian restaurant whose owners/chef, since becoming vegan, changed their menu to plant-based recipes.

What are a few dos and don’ts for aspiring LGBTQ chefs?
Don’t perpetuate toxic or misogynistic kitchen environments! The best way to move your sexist aggro co-worker out of your face is with an official e-mail or memo to your supervisor, so there’s documentation. Listen to your instincts and build solidarity with other co-workers. Healthy work environments naturally allow better communication and efficiency, and it definitely boosts morale if everyone’s baseline is looking out for each other. Also, do your research and study what you’re cooking. What is the dish’s origins? What forms does it take around the world?

Which Portland foodie social media accounts do you follow and recommend?
@racistsandwich is a podcast/blog about the intersection of food and race/gender/class and has turned the heads of the culinary minded in Portland toward the amazing chefs of color and food injustices, while moderating ongoing conversations about cultural appropriation. @ffgrocery is always a highlight on my feed, run by the owners of Food Fight! Vegan Grocery. An informative mix of local vegan activism, civil liberty news, and local vegan food.

Which celebrity would you most love to see come in or enjoying your food?
I would be floored to cook for Chelsea Manning. I would also love to boast that Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept, the infamous gay investigative journalist breaking the Edward Snowden story, ate at our restaurant.

Theresa Keane & Willow O’Brien, Pixie Retreat

A Portland native, O’Brien was in the fashion business when she and her partner of 13 years, Virginia-born Keane, who previously worked in the music industry, decided to funnel their passion for organic, plant-based, raw food into Pixie Retreat (1670 SE 3rd Ave. and 432 NW 11th Ave. Tel: 971-302-7128. www.pixieretreat.com), which currently has two locations. “Neither one of us consider ourselves to be chefs,” says Keane, “we are merely ‘makers’ here as ambassadors and in service to our great mother earth Gaia and to help others to live their best life.”

Willow & Theresa, Pixie Retreat

Willow & Theresa, Pixie Retreat

Why is Portland such a great city for LGBT culinary folks?
Portland’s an incubator for food talents. People can come here and dive into their work and get their business up and going at a cheaper cost than other major cities. Having access to such beautiful Pacific Northwest produce has been a huge plus, being in the epicenter of organic farming, and not to mention all of the natural food distributors and the conscientious people we’re surrounded with.

What is a misconception about raw, plant-based food that you hope to dispel through Pixie Retreat?
People feel they will still be hungry, that it won’t taste good, that healthy food is lacking in flavor and satisfaction. We’re here to prove that eating plant-based is fully satisfying, and tastes wonderful! Not to mention your body thanks you and finds its natural state, you look and feel your greatest, and the bonus is you begin to look at all facets of your life and ways to improve self. We’re known for our L ’il Puddin’s, a delicious sweet treat made from freshly opened young Thai coconuts, cashews, and a beautifully healing sea vegetable known as Irish moss. People think it’s made from straight-up dairy and sugar, when in reality it’s loaded with nutritional value and it’s skind of mind-blowing how good it is.

What are a few of your favorite restaurants, food pods, and chefs?
Back to Eden (2215 NE Alberta St. Tel: 503-477-5022. www.backtoedenbakery.com) is a gluten-free organic café and bakery on Alberta Street, also owned by a queer couple. Aaron Adams’ Farm Spirit (1414 SE Morrison St. www.farmspiritpdx.com) is a real treat. He makes seasonal food, with a 15course tasting menu, and it’s a very interactive experience as they plate and speak of the food right there in front of you. Aaron could make dirt taste good.

Which celebrity would you most love to see come in and enjoy your food?
Oprah Winfrey, Yolanda Hadid, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi (we know you’re vegan, get ya some!), and Jaden Smith, we’re looking at you. You’re leading the next generation with your indigo ways.

Seth O’Malley, Head Distiller, Townshend’s Distillery

An Oregon native, O’Malley became obsessed with teas as a teenager and started working for Portland’s acclaimed Townshend’s teahouse. When owner Matt Thomas opened a distillery specializing in botanical spirits fashioned from their kombucha distillate, he asked O’Malley to head it up. (4211 SE Milwaukie Ave. Tel: 503-477-6137. www.townshendsdistillery.com)

Seth O'Malley, Townshend’s Distillery

Seth O’Malley, Townshend’s Distillery

Why is Portland such a great city for LGBT culinary folks?
There’s the stereotype about Portland being extremely progressive, and while I’d argue that’s overblown, this is an extremely comfortable place for me to be who I am. Along the same lines, Portlanders don’t cling to tradition. Folks here are very open to new ideas, especially culinary ones, which allows creative food and drink professionals to pursue their whims and push boundaries in ways that would get them in trouble elsewhere. I mean, we use kombucha to make fernet!

What’s one of your proudest creations at the distillery?
We recently rolled out a Génépy , a spirit typically made near the southern Alps related to Chartreuse. We made it almost entirely from botanicals we foraged around here.

What are a few of the best spots to get a delicious drink?
Bit House Saloon (727 SE Grand Ave. www.bithousesaloon.com), BarCasa Vale (215 SE 9th Ave. Tel: 503-477-9081. www.barcasavale.com), and Rum Club (720 SE Sandy Bvld. Tel: 503-265-8807. www.umclubpdx.com). I’m particularly excited about Freeland Spirits (2761 NW Vaughn St. www.freelandspirits.com) right now. They’re a new woman-owned and -operated distillery with a gorgeous gin, and they’ve got some whiskey in the works as well.

Which Portland foodie Instagram and social media accounts do you follow and recommend?
For drinks, you have to follow @longdistancecocktailclub. They’re a group of queer friends who make cocktails on their picturesque hikes around Portland. I always get a kick out of @heatherarndtanderson. She’s a local food historian who gets into some pretty obscure recipes, whose food descriptions I swear I can smell through my cracked iPhone screen. She’s also hilarious, and woke, so there’s that.

James Adair, Pastry Chef, Nel Centro

Raised in a Utah Mormon household, Adair landed his first cooking job at Portland’s gay bar Embers. He worked under late gay celebrity pastry chef Sean Sasser (whom he considers a mentor) at The Nines hotel and, later, with Departure’s Gregory Gourdet. He’s been with the French and Italian Riviera–inspired restaurant Nel Centro since 2016. (1408 SW Sixth Ave. Tel: 503-484-1099. www.nelcentro.com)

James Adair, Nel Centro

James Adair, Nel Centro

Why is Portland such a great city for LGBT chefs, bakers, mixologists, and culinary folks?
Portland’s extremely liberal, and very gay-friendly. I have no problems at work being out to all of my coworkers, and have never felt the slightest bit of fear of repercussions from someone knowing that I’m gay, unlike back in Utah.

What are a few of your favorite spots to eat?
I love Lardo (1205 SW Washington St. Tel: 503-241-2490. www.lardosandwiches.com), they have tasty, fattening sandwiches that are simple but always phenomenal. Kachka (720 SE Grand Ave. Tel: 503-235-0059. www.kachkapdx.com), which wins award after award for their amazing Russian fare. Little Bird (215 SW 6th Ave. Tel: 503-688-5952. www.littlebirdbistro.com) is also great—the location’s incredibly cute and the food inventive.

Regarding ‘Keep Portland Weird,’ what’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen?
Coyotes. Many times a year, I’ve seen one darting through traffic, and there was the one riding the MAX Light Rail a couple years ago. The raccoons are frequent and understandable, but Portland has more coyotes than newcomers would think.

What about some of your favorite Portland-made food products/spirits?
Jacobsen Salt is great. It’s made on the Oregon Coast and is sold widely here. One that’s little known is a brewery called Baerlic. They produce new beers all the time, like new recipes, and many of them only once. Should you fall in love with one they will can the beer there for you, as you’re waiting, so you can stick in in your luggage and enjoy it anywhere in the world. And Aria Dry Gin is produced by Bull Run here in Portland. It’s an amazing gin, dry and incredibly complex. You can tour the distillery and make sure it’s to your liking before buying a bottle.

Finally, what are a few dos and dont’s for aspiring LGBT chefs?
Working in kitchens can be a bit of a boys’ club, and I’ve seen a lot of LGBT coworkers not know how to react and have had troubles in their career because they chose to be standoffish. Join in the camaraderie, to build trust and friendship with those you work with. Expect to work hard and go home exhausted every day. Taste everything you make. Don’t create unnecessary drama. Don’t let your knives get dull. A cut from a dull knife takes a lot longer to heal than from a razor-sharp one. And, for working in pastry at least, keep your basic math skills up. You need to know how to scale a recipe up or down depending on needs and ingredients you have on hand. So many cooks don’t have that ability.

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