By PDX People
Do you know Gregory Gourdet? If you’re a fan of Bravo TV’s Top Chef series it’s not hard to be aware of who he is thanks to him coming in 2nd during season 12 of Top Chef. Since then he still continues to be one of the most well-known PDX People in the United States.
About Gregory Gourdet
Born in New York, Gregory Gourdet was originally a pre-med student but once he found that he had a passion for cooking the future Top Chef left medicine for cooking.
After interning at some of New York’s top restaurants he left the Big Apple for the Pacific Northwest and joined PDX People who have a love for food in Portland. He would eventually become the Executive Chef at Departure, one of the most popular Asian Restaurants in Portland Oregon.
Located on the rooftop of the Nines Hotel in Portland, Departure offers upscale, Asian-fusion food and they also serve creative fare, global cocktails in a chic space with awesome city views.
Besides being a Bravo TV Top Chef, Gourdet is also a health conscious individual and when he’s not training for his next marathon he can be found in one of Portland’s many yoga studios.
What’s great about Gourdet is that besides offering unique, delicious meals, the dishes that he cooks are also health conscious and are perfect for people who are serious about maintaining gluten-free, vegan, and paleo diets.
Making His Name in Portland
By the time Gourdet started his career in Portland the city was just beginning its renaissance and other young chefs like Gabriel Rucker were just starting their careers here at the same time.
Thankfully, his passion for cooking and his unique style have paid off over the years and have continued to make him one of the most well-known chef’s in Portland and across the United States thanks to his hard work on Bravo TV’s Top Chef.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Gregory Gourdet sat down to talk about his work on Top Chef and how the show has impacted his life.
Why did you decide to do Top Chef? I auditioned twice prior to getting on for the Boston season. Being on the show puts you on a national platform and I was looking for a challenge at this point in my career. It’s a great place to show the world what you can do.
You said getting sober was easier than competing on Top Chef, explain that. The whole process of getting sober took me years; it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, but I was ready when it was time to get sober. Top Chef was harder in the sense that it has encompassed the past year of my life and challenged me in ways I never thought possible. Every episode you have everything tested and judged on such a grand scale. I thought the direct feedback the show was great because you just want to know where you are. If you listened to what they were saying and applied it to the next challenge you did ok.
Was the loss to Mei Lin tough? I was disappointed. I recall overhearing Padma backstage during the discussion, and going over the night’s missteps in my head I felt in my gut that Mei had taken the title. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when it showed on TV. It’s sad, but at the end of the day I’m human and I take a lot of pride in the whole experience. Top Chef is a day-by-day thing. You have ups and downs in life; we all had them throughout every one of the challenges. I had a great run but didn’t have the best day on the day of the finale, But, that’s the game.
What was the biggest takeaway from the show for you? The biggest takeaway was understanding there is so much about food that I don’t know; there is a lot to learn out there. It’s so hard when you are left alone with no resources—we were forbidden to use internet and cookbooks–and having to dig deep and come up with something amazing for these challenges.
Which was your favorite finale dish? By far the mole was my favorite. Being a chef, you want to be well- rounded and inspired by things around you, and I love complex flavors. That dish played to the spice-heat-acid-salt balancing act so nicely.
What is your ultimate goal? I want to create and direct restaurants—to come up with unique creative dishes for restaurants and spread my food around the country if possible
Life After Top Chef
Although he came in second with his Top Chef win, Gourdet still remains friends with the other chefs from the show and stays in contact with them on social media.
The Top Chef also remains busy with Departure in Portland and the top Asian Restaurant also recently launched a new location in Denver CO last year.
Located at 249 Columbine at the Halcyon Hotel in Denver, this Departure restaurant can be described as the Version 2.0 of Departure Portland.
The large contemporary space is dotted with air travel influences, from the imposing airport-terminal-like bar, a focal point of the interior, to aerial maps that serve as art, and a cool shoji room covered in an installation featuring the contents of x-rayed suitcases. The layout of the space, which includes two patios, a lounge, two dining areas, booths around the gorgeous bar, a sushi counter and binchotan counter, and more allows for a variety of ways to experience the new attraction.
The large menu, which spans over lunch, brunch, and dinner, is guided by indulgent global flavors. There are sushi and sashimi, dim sum favorites, kushiyaki skewers, and wok fired specialties, plus a superb sake list that will please the geekiest Japanese rice beverage enthusiast. Beverage director Brandon Wise created a thoughtful cocktails list that stimulates the eye with bright and diverse colors and the palate with unique flavors. A serious mocktail list is also offered.
Establishing His Brand in the Cooking World
Although his work on Top Chef was 2 years ago, that hasn’t stopped Gregory Gourdet from staying on top of the mind of foodies in Portland and the restaurant world as a whole.
Besides regularly posting on social media, Gourdet has remained in the media spotlight and isn’t afraid to share his words of wisdom with people who might hope to cook like him some day.
Gourdet’s advice for making a kitchen of any size efficient: Keep items to a minimum, but don’t compromise. Pare down gadgets. Splurge on at least two great knives: a Japanese paring knife and chef knife. And manage spices and food so there’s no waste.
“The last thing I want to do is throw food away,” says Gourdet, whose Haitian parents came to the U.S. before Gourdet was born. He grew up in New York City’s Queens borough. “Haiti is a country with a history of economic struggle. We were raised to appreciate food and how it was produced. I know how hard it is to grow food, and I respect all aspects of it.”
Gourdet calls his food modern global with elements of comfort and health. It takes talent to pull that off well.
Before Gourdet became a star in Portland and beyond, he learned about Haitian cuisine and the enjoyment of cooking from his mother, aunts and two grandmothers.
“I was the kid who was always tasting, always eating everything,” he says with a smile.
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