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Portland chef Gregory Gourdet wins 2024 James Beard Award at Chicago ceremony

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Gregory Gourdet, the celebrity chef behind Kann, a wood-fired Haitian restaurant in Southeast Portland, was named the Pacific Northwest’s best chef at the 2024 James Beard Awards ceremony in Chicago Monday evening. It’s the third consecutive year Gourdet has collected a medal from the foundation, which was named in honor of Beard, the Oregon-born food pioneer.

Gourdet accepted the award dressed in a bespoke suit wrapped in vibrant green and blue feathers from Portland designer Adam Arnold that announcers said was inspired by the national bird of Haiti. After thanking the foundation, he recounted his 2008 journey from the high-stress kitchens of New York City to Portland, where he found sobriety and success.

“I left rehab early, deep in a drug and alcohol addiction,” Gourdet said. “I was overweight. I was broken and miserable. And over the past 16, 17 years in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been able to find my voice and purpose as a chef. I’ve been able to love salmon and hazelnuts and marrionberries. And food carts.”

He thanked the hundreds of cooks and dishwashers and servers who he has worked with along the way at restaurants including downtown Portland’s Saucebox and Departure and at Kann, which he opened in 2022. That year, Gourdet won his first James Beard Award for “Everyone’s Table,” his wellness-focused cookbook with food writer J. J. Goode. The following year, Kann was named America’s best new restaurant at the 2023 awards ceremony.

“Today I am able to gratefully work at a hub for Haitian culture and Haitian storytelling in one of the most random places, the Pacific Northwest, which is extremely different (than) other Haitian communities. So it has truly been my honor.”

Kann was The Oregonian’s Restaurant of the Year in 2022. It currently sits at No. 2 in our ranked 2024 guide to Portland’s best restaurants.

In a night that featured several references to the war in Gaza, Gourdet focused attention on the importance of accessing food, “a basic human right that should never be used as a tool of war against innocent people.” He also urged the crowd to continue focusing on diversity, inclusion and female-led restaurant teams.

“These aren’t catchwords. they’re systems that work,” Gourdet said. “I hope that if we can slowly do the right thing, that the next generation has it a little bit better than we do, and the generation after that has it even better than they did, and we can get rid of this generational trauma that’s been affecting us and holding us hostage in this industry.”

In the regional Northwest and Pacific category that also includes Alaska and Hawaii, Gourdet faced off against one other Oregon chef and three from Washington. They are Josh Dorcak of Ashland’s Mäs, Avery Adams of the Orcas Island restaurant Matia Kitchen and Seattle’s Kristi Brown of Communion and Melissa Miranda of Musang.

Other Oregon restaurants and chefs up for awards at the so-called “Oscars of the food world” Monday evening include pioneering pizza chef Sarah Minnick, Thai tasting menu restaurant Langbaan, North Portland bakery JinJu Patisserie and McMinnville restaurant Hayward.

Further reading:

Kann is unlike any restaurant Portland has seen before

Meet Portland’s 2022 Restaurant of the Year

Caviar, po’boys and dancing till 4 a.m.: Gregory Gourdet details Kann team’s post-Beard Chicago bash

— Michael Russell; mrussell@oregonian.com

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Read More: Portland chef Gregory Gourdet wins 2024 James Beard Award at Chicago ceremony

2024-06-11 05:58:00

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