Hooked on Cheese Chef Spotlight: Chef John Gorham

Raymond Hook sits down with the legendary Portland chef

Gorham is the co-owner and executive chef of Toro Bravo, Tasty n Sons, and Tasty n Alder.

This is the third installment in Hooked on Cheese’s series focusing on outstanding chefs who reign at restaurants off the beaten path in smaller cities across the USA. Raymond will introduce each of these fantastic chefs de cuisine and share one of their unique recipes with The Daily Meal. Enjoy!

John Gorham is the co-owner and executive chef of iconic Portland, Oregon restaurants Toro BravoTasty n Sons, and Tasty n Alder, and co-owner of Mediterranean Exploration Company. At his four distinct restaurants, he aims to celebrate a wide range of global cuisines while at the same time staying true to the house-made, sustainable, local ethos that Portland is known for. For this week’s story, Raymond got to interview this forward-thinking “chef of the people” about his journey from line cook to restaurateur, how he made the East-to-West-Coast jump, and his favorite American cheeses to use in his internationally inspired dishes.

Chef, can you tell us a little bit about your restaurant? How long it's been open, what style of food you serve, etc. What's the one-sentence philosophy of Tasty n Sons?
We opened as a lunch restaurant five years ago when no one in Portland had a serious lunch program. In one phrase: we’re pushing lunch to another level.

Do you serve brunch or lunch all day?
We serve brunch 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day, then diner-style dinner service. The style of food here: the only rule is that it must be tasty. World-cuisine-influenced breakfast dishes.

What is your background/history as a chef? How long have you been the chef/owner of Tasty n Sons? Who has inspired you?
Tasty n Sons spun out of my other restaurant, Toro Bravo. I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Savannah, Ga., and Greensboro, N.C. My cooking is very Southern-influenced.

How did you end up in Portland?
I came out West when I was 19 and ended up working in resorts, then worked at Restaurant LuLu [in San Francisco] and Citron in Berkeley [the much-celebrated, but now defunct, neighborhood gem].

How did you make the leap to owning your own restaurants?
I'd started an underground supper club [Simpatica] in the early 2000s. Our Spanish tapas dinners were huge successes, so there was obviously a need for it. In 2006, a USA Today writer rated us the #1 paella in the country. Then we opened Toro Bravo in 2007. Many of our most popular Toro Bravo dishes were breakfast dishes, leading to the concept for Tasty. We're about to shut down [Tasty n Sons] for revamping this November.

Can you tell us three or four American artisan cheeses you've used in your restaurants?
Beecher's Flagship CheddarFranklin's Teleme (we serve a brioche smeared with jam and Teleme, "Toasted Jam"), Cypress Grove Cheeses, and Portland Creamery’s artisan goat cheeses.

Can you tell us about your highly recommended Teleme-and-peach dessert? What makes it special?
It consists of a roasted peach served warm topped with melted Teleme. It's our version of peaches and cream but more savory. 

Is there anything special you'd like us to impart to The Daily Meal readers about how you approach cuisine?
Try to stay true to original ideas; just elevate them.

You can make your own Grilled Peaches with Franklin’s Teleme by following Chef Gorham’s recipe here. It’s a wonderfully simple dish that takes a standard dessert to the next level. Enjoy!

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You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.