Andrew Friedman invites Sam Smith, one of the chef/owners at Tusk, to sound off about Portland’s culinary renaissance. Along the way, he also talks about why he won’t hire any mercenaries in the kitchen and believes that all young chefs must prove themselves to farmers. Also, Andrew wants to know if the fast casual concept really is the holy grail for restaurant owners.

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According to Portland Monthly, Sam Smith met his business partner Joshua Mcfadden in a sports bar kitchen circa 2011: two talented unknown chefs, building hoagies while plotting their entrance into Portland’s promised land. McFadden had secret cool cred. At New York’s Franny’s—thank him or curse him—he made kale salad a national sensation. Smith, meanwhile, had mastered drop-dead hummus and modern Israeli flavors at Philly’s famed Zahav. Their visions synced a year later at Ava Gene’s, with McFadden as chef, Smith as aide-de-camp, their menus based less on specific Italian recipes than on ideas about how food should be composed—on the palate, not the plate—and a serious commitment to Portland farmers. They could vault even celery to excitement, alongside dates, chiles, and Sardinian cheese. In 2017, Tusk, the duo’s ode to Oregon crops, Fleetwood Mac, and Moroccan spices, challenged seasonal cooking’s status quo with a dynamic, veg-centric approach.

Thanks to our engineer, Aaron Parecki of Stream PDX.

Music by Breakmaster Cylinder

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