Top Chefs

At home in the kitchen with some of PDX’s best chefs (and their kids)


For most of us, it’s enough just to get dinner on the table every night for our own families. The chefs pictured in these pages, though? They feed the hordes of hungry diners who line up outside PDX’s food cart pods and queue for Sunday brunch, who hit happy hour with the kids and hire a sitter for a special night out. And then, when their shift is finally over, these chefs (and many others) go home to feed their own families. Portland photojournalist Irene Hess takes us behind the scenes for a look at some of our favorite kitchen warriors off the clock — and yes, sometimes their kids won’t eat what they make, either.

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Juan Otero doesn’t do recipes, really. He cooks by intuition and memory, drawing on his Mexican heritage, where mole is king. You’ve got to look hard to find his food cart, parked down a narrow alleyway off SE Hawthorne Boulevard, but as Willamette Week’s 2015 Food Cart of the Year winner, he’s definitely been discovered. They come for the mole, but they might just stay for the crunchy cabbage salad perfected by his daughter Eva, who says: “It’s very important before you prep the salad to make sure you have good intentions, never rush. It will contaminate the food if your intentions are not good for cooking. That’s the best ingrediente en la comida (best ingredient for the food).”

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Eva’s Crunchy Cabbage Salad

1/2 pound cabbage
1/4 pound fennel
1/3 pound jicama
3 ounces lime juice
4 ounces olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, diced
salt and pepper

Finely slice the cabbage and the fennel into thin ribbons, and cut the jicama into matchsticks. Then, in a separate bowl, mix together the lime juice, olive oil and diced garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper, pour over the vegetables and serve.

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Katherine Deumling, owner of Cook With What You Have, and Ellis, age 8.

As befits the former leader of Slow Food Portland, Deumling is an evangelist for cooking at home with locally sourced ingredients. She teaches cooking classes all over the metro area and develops recipes based around what’s in season for subscribers to her online recipe collections — ideal for local CSA members who are wondering what to do with an overflowing box of turnips or chicory. Ellis is a big fan of her salad rolls with peanut sauce and she makes sure there is always Thai basil growing in their garden. Find more great recipes and tips from Deumling at

“Give kids choices! Let them choose what vegetable to pick in the garden or buy at the farmers’ market or store. Then ask them how they want to prepare it — boil, grill, eat raw in a salad.”

— Katherine Deumling

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Salad rolls with peanut sauce

Serves 4 to 6 as a starter

1 ounce bean-thread (cellophane) noodles
1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
8 8-inch round rice papers plus additional in case some tear
2 green onions, cut into 2-inch julienne strips
⅓ –½ cup finely shredded carrot
⅓ cup cucumber, cut into matchsticks
3 ounces firm tofu, well-drained and cut into thin strips (optional)
½ cup fresh basil leaves, (Thai basil if you have) washed and dried
½ cup fresh mint leaves, washed and dried
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, washed and dried

1. In a bowl cover bean thread noodles in very hot water, soak for 10 minutes and drain well. With scissors, cut noodles into 3- to 4-inch lengths. Toss with vinegar and salt to taste in a small bowl.

2. In a shallow baking pan, soak 1 round of rice paper in hot water to cover until very pliable, 45 seconds to 1 minute.

3. Lay a dry dish towel on the counter. Carefully spread the soaked round on it and blot top with other half of dish towel. Peel paper off and place on a plate (it will stick to the towel if you leave it on the towel). Put another round in water while you assemble the first. Arrange several basil leaves on bottom half of sheet, leaving a 1-inch border along edge. Top basil with about 1/8 of noodles, arranging them in a line across the leaves. Top noodles with 1/8 each of green onion, carrot, tofu, and cilantro and mint (or whatever combination of fillings you’re using). Roll up filling tightly in rice paper, folding insides after first roll to completely enclose filling, and continue rolling. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Pro tip: Double wrapping covers any tears and makes roll more stable and easier to eat.)

4. Wrap completed salad rolls in rinsed and squeezed out dish towel or paper towel and put in a re-sealable plastic bag. Rolls may be made one day ahead and chilled. Before serving, bring rolls to room temperature. Halve rolls diagonally and serve with peanut sauce.

Peanut sauce

⅔ cup smooth peanut butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
1 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons boiling water (more if needed)
Juice of 1 lime, more to taste
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl, whisking well to incorporate everything. If it’s too thick add a little more hot water. Taste and adjust seasoning with more soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar or hot pepper, to your liking. Refrigerate and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Sappington 2

Chefs Adam Sappington and Jackie Sappington of The Country Cat and sons Atticus, 13, and Quinn, 10.

“The boys will eat raw oysters with the best of them. They love a good steak tartare too! On the flip side, we cannot get them to eat a raw strawberry!”

— Jackie Sappington

CPDX families have been flocking to The Country Cat ever since it opened up in a then rather desolate, now bustling stretch of Southeast Stark Street. The food is delicious without being dumbed down, and even at a place that’s known for in-house butchering, the vegetarian entrees are standouts. Adam Sappington is the executive chef and Jackie Sappington takes charge of pastries; they’ve recently expanded to the Portland International Airport and their first cookbook, Heartlandia: Heritage Recipes from the Country Cat, came out this fall, but they still make time to go to their kids’ soccer games.

Gluten-Free Lasagne

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 standard package of gluten-free lasagne noodles
2 tablespoon olive oil
½ of a yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 gloves of fresh garlic, sliced
2 pounds ground pork
4 ounces of crimini mushrooms, sliced
24 ounces tomato sauce
1 pint ricotta cheese
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks
1 cups shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2. In a medium-sized stock pot, fill three-quarters full with water. Bring water to boil and add kosher salt to the water. Gently add all the noodles to the boiling water. Cook until just al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the noodles.

3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once warm, add the onion and garlic. Saute until translucent. Crumble up the ground pork and add to the onion/garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the pork until browned, about 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Once at a simmer add the ricotta. Stir to incorporate. Then add the parsley and set aside.

4. In a 9-by-13-inch casserole pan, place a layer of noodles into the base of the pan. Spoon over some tomato sauce to cover the noodles. Stud the top with some of the fresh mozzarella and sprinkle some of the grated mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat the process until you have used all of the noodles. Finish the top with sauce and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil from the top and let brown for another 10 minutes. Once finished, remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

Carlo Lamagna, executive chef of Clyde Common, and, son, Rishi, age 3.

Carlo Lamagna, executive chef of Clyde Common, and, son, Rishi, age 3.

Lamagna has worked at downtown hotspot Clyde Common since 2014, and works a bit of his Filipino heritage onto the menu (try the crispy pata, aka deep-fried pig trotters). The vibe is communal, small plates stand out and the lights are low. At home, though, his buttermilk-brown butter pancakes are a hot-ticket item.

“Cooking with Rishi … helps build our bond and it is awesome for me to see his eyes light up when he sees something cool, like rolling pasta. He usually asks to cook with me when I am making dinner and he will drag his ‘cooking chair’ over to the cutting board. I love it.”

— Carlo Lamagna

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Buttermilk-brown butter pancakes

Serves a hungry family of four at Sunday brunch, with leftover batter for Monday morning.

2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
4 cups pastry flour (50 percent bread flour and 50 percent all purpose)
½ tablespoon baking soda
2 tablespoons baking powder
4 eggs
5 egg yolks
1 quart buttermilk
6 ounces brown butter, cooled*
Butter, for frying

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.

2. Whisk whole eggs, yolks and buttermilk together until fully incorporated. Then whisk in brown butter to distribute evenly into mixture. Butter will seize up into smaller clumps as it makes contact with the cold liquids.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together until just blended. Batter will appear clumpy. Pro tip: To avoid a gummy pancake, don’t overwork the batter.

4. Heat up a nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet on medium heat and add whole butter. Add desired amount of batter to the pan. When surface starts to bubble, flip the pancake. Both sides should be golden brown.

*Note, to brown butter, melt it over medium heat. Watch for the butter to start to foam, and change colors, from the familiar sunny yellow to a roasted marshmallow shade of brown. The butter will start to smell a little nutty at that point; take it off the heat, and put into a heat-proof bowl to cool down.

Millard 5

Chef Katy Millard of Coquine, and son Hugo Podbielski, age 1.

Even in progressive Portland, there aren’t too many woman running the show at more upscale restaurants, let alone mothers of babies who are still teething. But Coquine, which just opened in July, had a secret weapon in Millard, who trained in France in Michelin-starred kitchens. The Oregonian calls her food “beyond promising” — Hugo is still young enough to be gumming on the raw carrots she uses as a base for the salad shared here.

“Hugo constantly surprises me with the foods that he goes crazy for! He fights me for the juice from oysters, slurps spicy ramen broth, and licks the mustard off of the bread on his sandwiches.”

— Katy Millard

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Roasted Carrot Salad with Rosemary, Capers and Hard-boiled Eggs

Serves 4 to 6

4 eggs
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds medium carrots, peeled and trimmed
¼ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon capers, drained and chopped
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
2 cups arugula (or mustard greens, or mizuna)

For vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar(or red wine vinegar)
¼ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons good olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2. Hard-boil the eggs: In a medium saucepan, cover eggs generously with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes, then drain and place eggs in ice water to cool. Peel the eggs and refrigerate.

3. Roast the carrots: Gently heat the canola oil in a cast iron pan (or two) large enough to hold the carrots in one layer. Put the carrots in the pan(s) and toss gently to coat. Season generously with salt, and lightly brown them on all sides. Cover the pan(s) with aluminum foil, and roast in the oven for 15 to 25 minutes, until very tender. Cool slightly, cut into 1- to 2 inch pieces, and taste for seasoning. Toss with more salt if necessary.

4. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in the canola oil while whisking, and finish with the olive oil.

5. Make bread crumbs: Lightly heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the rosemary, until aromatic, let cool and combine with the capers, bread crumbs, and a pinch of salt.

6. Press the hard-boiled eggs through a sieve, or chop finely with a knife.

7. Toss the carrot pieces with the arugula, and enough salt and sherry vinaigrette to season nicely. Divide among your plates, and top with the rosemary bread crumbs and the hard-boiled eggs.

Where to Find Our Chefs:

Carlo Lamagna: Clyde Common 1014 SW Stark Street, Portland

Katherine Deumling:

Katy Millard: Coquine 6839 SE Belmont Street, Portland

Juan Fernando Otero: Holy Mole 1419 SE 33rd Avenue, Portland

Adam and Jackie Sappington: The Country Cat 7937 SE Stark Street, Portland

Irene Tejaratchi Hess

Irene Tejaratchi Hess

Irene Tejaratchi Hess is a photographer, video editor and writer. She spent her early career as a producer and editor at the PBS series "Nature". In 2011, Irene moved to Portland, where she and her husband raise a fabulous toddler. Her photos have appeared in "The New York Times", "The Brooklyn Paper" and other publications. Backpacking with her family, photographing wild locales,and Halloween are a few of her favorite things.
Irene Tejaratchi Hess

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