6 Questions with Naomi Pomeroy

How you run your restaurant is very important to you. Why does it matter?

A big part of our day has to be communicating with each other, getting to know each other as a team, hanging out, talking, being together. And then we start doing dinner service. So a lot of the day is spent just talking about family, and relating to each other, and telling jokes, and talking about some show that we watched, or whatever. And I think that translates into the diner’s experience.

Your restaurant Beast is a labor of love. How did it come about?

Everything that Beast is was born of necessity. We have 26 seats—I made two big, long communal tables because that was the only way to get a reasonable number of seats into the restaurant. We just do two seatings a night, at 6pm and 8:45pm, and it’s all one menu, a set menu with six courses. And that was really the only solution.

Why did you decide to have a set menu?

Look, what should you do when you go out to any restaurant? Ask the chef what they would eat if they were eating here, because they know what’s happening. They know what’s best. We’re creative people, and we change the menu every two weeks, so we just have the things that we want to eat at that time. We want to touch that product, and make that food for you, and share it with you. So it’s partially selfish, but it’s partially about what is best in that moment.

Why do you love Japan?

Japan and Portland have a really strong love affair with each other. From the coffee to the whiskey to the music vinyl culture, it starts to become a chicken-and-the-egg type thing. Japan is also starting to get these little food cart pods and farmers markets are exploding there. It’s just so fucking Portland.

How have you evolved as a chef?

My cooking has changed a lot over the years. As a really young cook I felt like I wanted to get all of the flavors into a dish. That’s the sign of young cooking. It’s not necessarily wrong. That’s actually why chefs love Asian food: so much of it has hot, sour, salty and sweet all in the same dish. But at this point, Beast has really taught me a lot about balancing within a menu rather than trying to balance within a dish.

How do you think Beast has been able to stay so relevant?

Oh god, I don’t know. Not being relevant is probably my darkest fear. Some people have critiqued Beast as being the same experience every time you go. I think that’s an interesting, and kind of charming, critique, but it’s severely ignorant. We never make the same thing twice. Eating a multi-course meal in the same space could feel like a similar experience, but we’re always pushing ourselves to do new things.