Truth be told, Gregory Gourdet doesn’t cook much in his own home. Maybe a handful of times each month.
It’s not the electric stove, the lack of expensive cutlery or the kitchen’s compact size — though those are all salient differences from the kitchen he helms at Departure Restaurant and Lounge, the 150-seat Pan Asian eatery atop The Nines hotel in downtown Portland.
No, what keeps Departure’s executive chef out of his own kitchen is his 70-hour workweek and his desire to taste the work of his professional peers.
“I love to eat out,” says Gourdet, who rents a small Craftsman house in inner Northeast Portland with a friend. “We live in a great food town. And with all the hours at the restaurant, it’s kind of hard to come home and cook sometimes.”
Yet what he does cook at home — or, at least, for OPB — shows off the hallmarks of Gourdet’s increasingly noted culinary skills (Oregon Department of Agriculture 2013 Chef of the Year, Eater Portland Hottest Chef 2012): a meal that’s simple, seasonal, expertly spiced and hot.
That’s hot as in the heat from chilies, which play prominent roles in Gourdet’s biggest culinary influences: the modern Chinese eatery in New York City where he apprenticed as chef de cuisine and where he developed his taste for Asian flavors, and his Haitian parents, who always kept a jar of pickled scotch bonnet peppers on the table. “Chilies,” he explains, “are a very important part of Haitian culture.”
Another influence is his own diet, which he describes as more or less Paleo: no dairy, few grains, mostly lean meats, vegetables and fruit — presumably what humans ate in the Stone Age.
“It’s about trying to focus on a lot of things in their natural state,” he explains, “with a little bit of salt, a little pepper, all the spices and all the seasonings and aromatics to make things really delicious, some really great oils — olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil — and call it dinner. Very simple.”
Simple and quite healthy, befitting a chef who practices hot yoga, commutes by bicycle and runs ultramarathons.
Still, it’s hard to imagine cooking at Gourdet’s home being any more different than his experience at Departure. On the restaurant’s busiest nights, the bespectacled chef works alongside 20 cooks in a 1,000-square-foot kitchen that features a steamer, a fryer, two Japanese grills, two ovens, six burners and four woks. At home, he’s limited to a single electric stove.
“It’s still all cooking,” Gourdet insists. “At the end of the day, someone has a beautiful meal for them. Sometimes it’s 300 people, and sometimes it’s just me and my roommate.”
Spice-Rubbed Roasted Chicken with Autumn Root Vegetables
- Whole, all natural chicken, about 3.5 pounds
- 5 Thai chilies, dried
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
- 2 tablespoons coriander
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons Korean chili powder
- 2 tablespoons Jacobsen’s Sea Salt
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled
- Thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
- 1-2 small jalapeño chilies, sliced 1/4” thick (two will make this very spicy)
- Small bunch baby carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
- 1 red onion, chopped into one-inch pieces
- 1 bunch green onions, mostly whites, cut into one-inch pieces
- 1/2 curry squash, rinsed, deseeded and cut into one-inch squares
- 1 apple, any variety, roughly cut into one-inch squares
- Peel of half an orange, sliced, pith removed
- Olive oil, for cooking
- Kosher salt, for cooking
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Toast spices gently in a hot pan until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the Korean chili flakes. Grind spices and salt in a blender until ground, but not too fine. Place spice mix in a bowl. Rub thoroughly over chicken on all sides, including inner cavity. Place chicken in fridge for 12-24 hours. For the most even cooking, let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before going in oven.
- Prep vegetables. Be careful not to cut pieces too small, as they may burn during roasting. Mix together in a large bowl. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Vegetables should be seasoned and a little shiny from the oil. Spread evenly into a preheated roasting pan. Lay the spice-rubbed chicken on top.
- Roast at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees, cook another 20 minutes. Remove vegetables from pan. Place vegetables in a serving dish and hold warm. Place chicken back in oven and cook at 350 degrees for another 20 minutes, or until leg meat is just cooked through. Let chicken rest at least 15 minutes before carving. Serve along side warm vegetables. Enjoy!