Gregory Gourdet Works to Construct a Higher Restaurant in Portland


When Mr. Gourdet was sitting in the kitchen at Kann Winter Village last month, a side door was open to the 10-yurt outdoor village provided by American Express as part of a nationwide program. Tia Vanich, the project manager and business partner of Mr. Gourdet, helped freshen up the tents before the next service. In January, indoor eating was still banned in Portland. (These restrictions were lifted earlier this month.)

“We’re not in business without the yurts,” said Ms. Vanich.

Mr Gourdet’s attempt to create a more integrative and harmonious work environment is most evident in Kann’s kitchen. “I could have occupied this place with a bunch of white men in literally five minutes,” he said. “But as a black gay man and with everything that was going on with the accounting and George Floyd, I didn’t want to do that.”

The 35-year-old Varanya Geyoonsawat, who is the highest-ranking kitchen employee under Mr. Gourdet as the sous-chef, worked in the kitchen together with Jasmyne Romero-Clark (27) and prepared the three six-course tasting menus – a pescatarian, a vegan, an omnivore – served five nights a week. Each menu included a salad of ripe plantains, pumpkin, and pickled apples in a cashew dressing, a version of Joumou soup, and upturned banana cake in warm coconut cream.

Kanns food, most of which is served in polished dust pots, is much more rustic than the modern Pan-Asian cuisine for which Mr. Gourdet was known at Departure. He admits that the dazzling rooftop restaurant doesn’t match the earthy, do-it-yourself aesthetic of the chef-owned restaurants that put Portland on the menu.

He mentioned Ms. Geyoonsawat, who was working at Departure with Ms. Romero-Clark towards the end of his tenure as a cook whose talents he did not fully recognize in Departure’s busy kitchen. He said it took her closer to testing recipes for his cookbook so he could see that she had the ability to run Kann’s kitchen.