Elias Cairo

Chef, Salumist, Olympia Provisions Founder

To Elias Cairo, owner and salumist of Portland’s Olympia Provisions, charcuterie is a blend of art and science. From his house-cured bacon to his smoked kielbasa, technique and nuance set his provisions apart. He deems his methodology “inspired precision” which results in an uncommon, deep richness throughout all his meats. Just ask The New York Times, Bon Appétit and Oprah to name a few of his recognitions and admirers.

The salumist’s distinctly old-world approach comes from leaning into his heritage and learning from the masters. A first generation Greek-American, he grew up making meats by his father’s side. His formative training took place in Switzerland with renowned chef Annegret Schlumpf, which set him up to apprentice in Greece before heading to Portland. He worked his way from line cook to Executive Chef at the esteemed local staple Castagna, and in 2009 he established Olympia Provisions. Elias’ fastidious attention to detail and standard for quality earned his shop the coveted approval of the USDA. His genuine passion for the handmade has blazed a trail for anyone interested in making meats the best way possible.

Why We Love Elias Cairo

Elias believes in meat. He can wax poetic about a piece of bacon like you would a work of art, and all that will still leave you wanting more. Let's just not mention the dark period in his life when he was vegan.

“It never dawned on me that people could make a living doing something they were really proud of—until I went to Switzerland.”

“Everything the Swiss make is so precise, consumable and delicious. Even ordering a coffee and some bon bons at a patisserie is a life-changing experience.”

6 Questions with Elias Cairo

  1. What surprised you most about Switzerland?

    Without a doubt, it’s this insane hyper-focus on precision—no matter what it is. So, if it’s an artisan that’s making a cheese, it’s this hard work to do something rewarding that’s just in their culture. If a train is late in Zurich, it’s on the front page of the newspaper.

  2. How did your time in Switzerland shape and influence you?

    The village I lived in is such a small place on this earth, but everything they did had such meaning and purpose. The cheesemakers spend all day on the farm and milking cows to produce the most perfect cheese they possibly can; everything at the butcher goes back to the grass in the mountain fields. I just went there to learn about being a chef and I quickly learned that there was way more to it.

  3. What excites you most about taking people on a trip and sharing this?

    I spent five years in Europe and I think it’s great to get off the beaten path and go to these villages and valleys that you might not ever have an excuse to go to. It’s fascinating to go on a hike through a valley up to a restaurant, where you’re going to stroll past cows grazing, and wildflowers and hear yodelers, and all that’s here because it’s tradition. You’re not going to find this in a tourbook.

  4. You don’t yodel, do you?

    Ha! No, no I don’t. I wish I could. They’re really good at it. I can remember once going skiing and it was super early, and there were a bunch of farmers up there too, and heard this amazing, beautiful music. And I turned around and they were just yodeling. And I thought, that’s you guys!

  5. Can you keep up with any Swiss hikers?

    No way, I was never able to. It was like the prime of my life, too, when I was there. I was climbing and living in the mountains; I had like a 45-minute bike ride to get home up the side of a mountain. And I could never keep up with them. I was on a hike once and this probably-72-year-old woman just flew past me.

  6. If you could choose any musician to eat with, who would it be?

    I think Bob Dylan. I wonder if he likes food, you think Dylan likes food? He probably eats. I’d like to ask him what his favorite dining experience was and did he write a song about it.

Switzerland with Elias Cairo

One Departure Only | August 16 - 22, 2020

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