Thursday, July 2, 2015

Interview with Gabriel Rucker, Chef/Owner of Le Pigeon and Little Bird

The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Photo by David Reamer
Gabriel Rucker, Chef/Owner of Le Pigeon and Little Bird

In 2006 at the age of 25, Chef Gabriel Rucker opened Le Pigeon, and with it, he brought a message that Portlanders quickly took to heart: Complicated French cooking techniques and weird cuts of meat, from tongue to tail, can be enjoyed by everyone. Chef Rucker's Foie Gras Profiteroles, served with caramel sauce and sea salt, and his Bacon-Apricot Cornbread, served with maple ice cream, pushed diners out of their comfort zones (and straight into the danger zone?), but the flavors were somehow familiar. Perhaps Chef Rucker's obsession with fast food, particularly his love In-N-Out Burger, had something to do with it? Whatever it was, Chef Rucker found a way to bring new cuts of meat to a wider audience. Along with his homemade ice creams, Chef Rucker has scooped up multiple James Beard Awards, including being named the best young chef in the United States and the best chef in the Northwest, and today, he represents re-imagined French cuisine, even if he's never been to France.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
This may be kind of clich√©, but it's ​heavily focused on what is local and found in the forest,​ and put on the plate with humility. The flavor comes first, and extraneous flash is secondary.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Katz from California ​for vinegar and olive oil. Their vinegar stands out​ at a higher level than anything I have tasted.
Nicky USA ​for meat. They're all about customer service.
Cascade Organics for specialty grown items, steelhead fish and fish roe. They're great, and​
will grow special things for me, like petite vegetables and herbs.
Lars Norgren from ​Peak Forest Fruit for things found in the forest​.

Provista for imported specialty goods.

Steve's Cheese (as mentioned in the​ Le Pigeon cookbook), because I get to taste everything​ before I buy it.

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

Ava Gene's and Sayler's Old Country Kitchen are two favorites.

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?

Greg and​ Gabi at Ox. They ​took something as old school as a steakhouse and made it theirs.

Vitaly Paley has ​been at the top of his game in the Northwest for as long as I can remember. I learned ten​ years worth of knowledge in two years of working for him at Paley's Place.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

The type of food that Justin Woodward is making at Castagna.​

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
The thing that excites me most is trying to get all of​ the bounty of the Northwest ocean to Portland to put on my menu.

738 E Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97214
www.lepigeon.com

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