|David Thompson (left) with Andy Ricker|
Zagat: Everybody’s talking about how Feast Portland is a cut above the usual food fest. Why do you think this is?
Because it's in Portland. And Portland is a destination city for all the obvious reasons: the farms, access to the ocean, access to the mountains, foraged products, craft manufacturing, a general adventurousness and a population who is genuinely interested in this stuff.
Zagat: How did winning the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Northwest in 2011 change your life, if at all?
I’d actually never even heard of the Beard Awards until I was nominated. I had never heard of it because I had my head stuffed in my ass opening a restaurant; and before that I had been a housepainter for 10 years, out of the restaurant industry; and before that I was in a restaurant industry that was a different world where I wasn’t interested in cheffy things. I thought I would never get it because when you look at the awards history it is white tablecloth, three-star, New York joints, so I was utterly shocked when I won. Winning has probably ultimately landed me in New York City and I think it has leant a legitimacy to what we are doing. It’s no longer this weird white dude cooking out of his garage; now it is a chef doing something serious. Nothing changed with the way we do the restaurant, it is just that this thing happened and we gained legitimacy from it.
Zagat: Now that street food has been legitimized in the US, do you think there are still misconceptions about it?
Yes, the biggest being that street food should be cheap and plentiful and that it should also simultaneously be high quality. It’s ridiculous. Food costs money. And if you want good quality food you should be prepared to pay for it. If you don’t care about the quality and the taste of it, then go ahead and pay $7. But the idea of “you get what you pay for” holds true for street food, too.
Zagat: What’s in store for you next?
We’re looking to potentially open a Whiskey Soda lounge in New York, but I’m not sure if it’s really going to happen. Outside of that, I’m working on a cookbook due to come out Fall 2013. Beyond that I don’t know. There are millions of different options, but right now what I’m hoping for is a vacation.