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Home Food Gregory Gourdet Works to Build a Better Restaurant in Portland

Gregory Gourdet Works to Build a Better Restaurant in Portland

As Mr. Gourdet sat in the kitchen of Kann Winter Village last month, a side door was open to the outdoor “village” of 10 yurts, provided by American Express as part of a nationwide program. Tia Vanich, the project’s director of operations and Mr. Gourdet’s business partner, was helping refresh the tents before the next service. In January, indoor dining was still banned in Portland. (Those restrictions were lifted early this month.)

“Without the yurts, we’re not in business,” Ms. Vanich said.

Mr. Gourdet’s attempt to create a more inclusive and harmonious work environment is most evident in Kann’s kitchen. “I could have staffed this place with a bunch of white males in, like, literally five minutes,” he said. “But as a gay Black man, and with everything that went on with the reckoning and George Floyd, I didn’t want to do that.”

In the kitchen, Varanya Geyoonsawat, 35, who as sous-chef is the highest-ranking kitchen employee below Mr. Gourdet, worked alongside Jasmyne Romero-Clark, 27, prepping for the three six-course tasting menus — one pescatarian, one vegan, one omnivore — served five nights a week. Every menu included a salad of ripe plantains, squash and pickled apples in a cashew dressing, a version of soup joumou and upside-down banana cake draped in warm coconut cream.

Kann’s food, much of which is served in polished Staub pots, is considerably more rustic than the modern, pan-Asian cuisine Mr. Gourdet was known for at Departure. He acknowledges that the glitzy rooftop restaurant is out of step with the earthy, do-it-yourself aesthetic of the chef-owned restaurants that put Portland on the map.

He mentioned Ms. Geyoonsawat, who, along with Ms. Romero-Clark, worked at Departure near the end of his tenure, as a chef whose talents he didn’t fully recognize in Departure’s busy kitchen. He said it took working with her more closely, testing recipes for his cookbook, for him to realize that she had the ability to lead Kann’s kitchen.


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