Interview with Vitaly Paley, Owner and Executive Chef of Paley’s Place

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

Photo by John Valls
Vitaly Paley, Owner and Executive Chef of Paley’s Place Bistro and Bar, Imperial Restaurant and Portland Penny Diner

A master of both classic and contemporary Pacific Northwest cuisine, Chef Vitaly Paley was born near Kiev in the Soviet Union, and by the time he opened Paley's Place Bistro and Bar in Portland in 1995, he'd cooked in Union Square Café, Remi, and Chanterelle, in New York, and the two-Michelin-star Moulin de la Gorce in France. In 2005, he was named James Beard Best Chef Northwest, and today, he owns Imperial Restaurant and the Portland Penny Diner in addition to Paley's Place Bistro and Bar.

Paley's Place is located on busy 21st Avenue in Northeast Portland, but the restaurant is like a country cottage. Guests enter through the front porch, and the 50-seat dining room retains the original living-room look. The seasonal fine-dining dishes offer a mix of local ingredients with Russian and Eastern European influence: hand-chopped American Wagyu Beef Tartare is served with local sweet onion, chopped parsley, and capers and a duck-egg yolk on top. Poussin Roasted Under a Brick comes with potato latkes and winter citrus salad. Chef Paley's house-made terrines, pates, and rillettes display masterful seasonings and textures. After 20 years in Portland, he not only shows no signs of slowing down, he actually seems to be rapidly gaining speed.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

It is very much ingredient and season driven. There are no rules or staunch traditions to follow. I only use the experience that I have accumulated over the years to continue to create, discover and try to define what it means to cook in the Pacific Northwest.

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

Ben Jacobsen of Jacobsen Salt Co. is a true pioneer, making world class salt and revitalizing a century-old tradition. Paul Durant of Red Ridge Farm makes fantastic olive oil in our very own backyard; Ken Forkish of Ken's Artisan Bakery makes a superb loaf of bread; and Damian Magista of Bee Local collects extraordinary honey from all around the Portland area.

Every now and then, I'll eat these four simple ingredients together, and I'll have to stop for a moment and marvel at how far we have come in Oregon. The pioneering spirit is still alive and well here. 

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

Yama Sushi

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

I have always and always will admire Cory Schreiber, formerly of Wildwood restaurant. He helped usher the modern dining era into Portland. The rest of us just follow.

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

The Pacific Northwest is big, very big. I am certain there are other places outside of major metropolitan centers like, for example, our coastal communities, that could use much deserved attention.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

I am on a more of a personal quest these days, going back in time to my Russian roots and rediscovering them through food. Cooking food that has a deep history, centuries of tradition and many rituals associated with cooking and eating really excite me. Lucky for me, the set of ingredients in the Pacific Northwest is just like what I remember growing up with. Lots of game meats, berries, cold-water fish, wild mushrooms, root veggies and fields of buckwheat, just to name a few.

Paley’s Place Bistro and Bar
1204 Northwest 21st Avenue
Portland, OR 97209

Imperial Restaurant
410 SW Broadway
Portland OR 97205

Portland Penny Diner
410 SW Broadway
Portland OR 97205


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