Interview with Sunny Jin, Executive Chef of JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa
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.
Sunny Jin, Executive Chef of JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa
Widely recognized as one of the best hotels in the United States, The Allison Inn and Spa is a top-of-the-line luxury resort in Willamette Valley, and Executive Chef Sunny Jin heads the Inn's restaurant, JORY. Chef Jin is all about developing relationships, whether with truffle-hunting neighbors or with the bees he keeps in the resort's 1.5-acre produce garden. By developing lasting relationships with Willamette Valley purveyors and only growing the vegetables and fruits that he can't find elsewhere, Chef Jin let's the bounty of the Willamette Valley dictate his menu. His approach lets ingredients sing, but this is not hands-off cooking: Chef Jin demonstrates precise, reserved modernist techniques that leave their mark. Topping dishes with a flurry of beautiful edible flowers is his calling card.
Before joining JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa in 2010, Chef Jin spent three years cooking for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry (three Michelin stars); Tetsuya's in Sydney, Australia; and for Ferran Adrià at El Bulli/elBulli (three Michelin stars) in Catalonia.
1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
Northwest cuisine is something we live every day. It's been occurring before any of us came into existence. I've often said that cooking is the fun part. We all know what we like to eat, and how we like to eat it. The true appreciation of a dish exists more in the understanding of the journey that the simple carrot took to end up in front of us. It's a respect for the land, and the people who tend to it. That inherent respect, coupled with ideal growing conditions, is what gives us amazing produce throughout the years and truly exemplifies Northwest cuisine.
Pacific Northwesterners are here together by choice, and naturally come together by trade. From the chicken farmer on Bell Road to the cheese maker in the hills of Dundee, we share the love of our craft and bring it to our tables.
2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?
Oregon Olive Mill - Something about Oregon Olive Mill makes me think of Oprah and her "favorite things" list (though I'm not going to be handing out cars anytime soon!). Not only do we use their olive oils to enhance certain dishes, but there's something to be said about using a product exclusively in your own home. It's simply an olive oil done right.
Northwest Fresh Seafood - Northwest Fresh Seafood has taken it to the next level. It's a no-brainer that being near our cold fertile waters will yield exceptional seafood, but this company has decided to take it even further and offer us direct options for our menus. It's with open enthusiasm that we are frequently allowed to tell our guests that the oysters they are about to eat came out of the water that very morning!
Misty Mountain Mushrooms - Bob Nufer, of Misty Mountain Mushrooms is one of our strongest links to the changing seasons. He's been a constant indicator of what's coming and going around our area and offers some of the best foraged products that he has even plucked from his own backyard.
Carlton Bakery - Tim and Ahmee Corrigan are some of my favorite people. You would never guess that underneath their personable demeanor and humility lives an innate talent for creating some of the best breads I have eaten. Their breads could've succeeded anywhere, and I'm happy they chose our valley as their home.
Gaining Ground Farm - Mike Paine of Gaining Ground Farm is one of our most beneficial partnerships to date. From the beginning, he has brought exceptional produce to our doors. His produce and comprehension of our seasons is so amazing that we asked him to consult us in the further development of our own garden. We dug in our heels, listened to his approach, and it has brought our direction into focus.
JL Fisher Farms - Jered Fisher is the newest farmer we have partnered with. In a short period we have built a strong foundation. We merely sit back and observe the development of the hogs—that's how well his self-critical specifications work. What his pasture-raised hogs eat and how they live are important to us, and more so to him.
3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
Toro Bravo - I've been to Toro Bravo more than any other restaurant in the Portland area because of one thing: consistency. I have my staple list of tapas, and I have never been disappointed there. Great atmosphere, great food. What else do you need?!
Local Ocean Seafoods - Let's begin with a truth. I have on three separate occasions eaten there for both lunch and dinner on that same day. The menu is basic, but in the best way possible. If it's not in season, it's not on the menu. They take sustainability seriously. The majority of their seafood comes from the fleet of boats directly across the street. Gotta love the location too!
4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Jenn Louis (Sunshine Tavern, Lincoln) - I'm a big fan of her flavor combinations, and her affinity for all things offal. Jenn could easily rest on her accomplishments and live a happy life, but she continues to give to the culinary collective. I'm also a big fan of good people. She happens to be a great chef on top of that.
Vitaly Paley (Paley's Place, Imperial Restaurant) - I knew of his food and his restaurants long before I met the man himself. Vitaly Paley is one of the pioneers of Northwest cuisine. He has helped stabilize Oregon as a culinary hot spot, and has grabbed the attention of those once not familiar with our area. He is a chef who I hold in high regard because he looks to the growth of a region over his own success, and that to me is true merit.
5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
The thing I admire most about cooking in the Northwest is that we embrace many facets of food. Our patrons rightfully follow those experts of their craft. That allows culinary creativity to grow from their support, and gives hard-working people a chance to sustain a living on their own terms. We rely on those individuals to elevate our own dishes. The people that gather our local salts, forage our woods, and even make our ketchup deserve the highest recognition.
6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
What excites me most are the relationships developed as we move forward with each year. We talk to our farmers and strategically decide who is growing what and for what purpose. We then begin to supplement against our own garden's capacity while simultaneously supporting our neighboring farms. These farms are the quiet gears of the Pacific Northwest that keep our restaurants in motion.
JORY at The Allison Inn and Spa
2525 Allison Lane
Newberg, OR 97132