6 Questions with Gregory Gourdet

What has your time cooking in Portland taught you the most?

I’ve learned a lot. Perseverance and dedication is something that’s really important in this career. Having worked in a restaurant that is inspired by other culinary cultures, I started a lifelong journey of wanting to connect with people and their cultures through food. There are so many things to be inspired by these days. For me, it’s really about the people behind these cuisines. It’s really about bringing different elements of culture to the table and respectfully presenting them to diners who haven’t experienced them before.

How would you describe Portland’s food scene?

We live in a very fertile, climate-friendly region for growing food. We’re surrounded by farms, the mountains and ocean, so great product is at our fingertips. There’s still an element of a small-town vibe going on, which allows us to have relationships with the people who grow our food. Maker culture is really imbedded into Portland and Oregon. People are really inspired to roll up their sleeves and make anything they want in order to be happy and nourished here. Even though Portland’s a predominantly white town, there’s a lot of cultures represented in the food. There is great culture within the culinary community. We live in a community where we want to support each other and are excited when people bring their story to the table.

Your new restaurant will feature heavily in Haitian food. What was your favorite dish growing up?

Definitely. There’s a collection of signature Haitian dishes, and they will all be on the menu at my new restaurant. We would have them every week growing up. There’s Haitian stewed chicken, rice and beans, fried sweet plantains, whole baked fish. It’s all these dishes we had constantly. So it’s not just one thing, but a lot that makes up Haitian cuisine, and they’ll all be at my restaurant for sure.

What did competing on Top Chef teach you about yourself?

The first time I went on Top Chef, I walked away feeling I needed to learn more about food. When you’re a situation like that, where you don’t have the internet or cookbooks or advice, you’re just alone in your head, I felt like I needed to explore the world more. I walked away feeling like I didn’t know enough. So, it inspired me to seek understanding and learning and travel. The past five years I’ve spent traveling to Europe numerous times, Asia annually, Haiti a lot to learn about my own culture. The last trips I’ve taken have been for me to spend time in kitchens of those countries. I think that’s a really humble way to learn.

How has running framed the way you approach challenges?

I think just perseverance and knowing that there’s always a finish line. Sometimes it’s just hard. Running has helped me to time things in my head. If I know that a project or a goal will take a long time, I can break it up. Just like if I’m going to run 15 miles, I know that seven-and-a-half miles is the halfway point, and the goal is in reach. It’s helped me with the confidence to break up steps or goals in my head. Trying to open this restaurant, it was a long-term plan. I didn’t just quit my job, I wanted to give myself a chance to travel and do this properly. I’m a trail-running, long-distance runner. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. A lot of things take time and you don’t just bolt to the finish line.

What got you interested in ultrarunning?

I started running when I was in rehab in New York City in 2006. I didn’t get sober for a few years after that, but when I finally moved to Oregon and got sober, I’d been running a bit more. I set a goal to run a half marathon, which was quickly followed by a goal to run a marathon. And within marathon training and running, I quickly picked it up and ran quite a few. I think I was Googling running one day and saw the term ‘ultrarunning’ and thought that sounded really badass. And an ultra marathon is 31 miles, so I figure if I could run 26 miles, I could run five more. So I trained, went to Washington and ran one, and met some local runners who kept inspiring me to run further. My running peaked with a couple of 50 milers. Life sometimes gets really busy, however, and I don’t run as much as I used to, even though it’s a constant that helps me get through.