All of chef Gregory Gourdet’s cuisine is personal, a story, a journey. And Kann, his wood-fired Haitian restaurant — Portland’s most anticipated restaurant of 2022 — will be no exception.
The project has been in the making for four years, with test drives in pop-ups and epic yurt dinners at Kann Winter Village last year.
But many crucial details have been hidden, including appearance and location. Now like Portland Monthly has learnedKann will open mid-July at 548 SE Ash Stwith 80 seats and an eight-foot fire pit in the center of a wide-open kitchen that will take up nearly half the space.
At Kann, Gourdet aims to put her family’s Haitian food culture on an equal footing with a world that has largely ignored it.. Don’t expect a heart-pounding bar scene or a goofy Portland food-geist (but who wouldn’t kill to see Gregory Gourdet take on either?). Kann will skew upscale Portland with a serene vibe, golden ceiling, and pure Gourdet menu — big, bright, and herbaceous, both traditional and quirky, celebrating what grows in Oregon with flavors that may surprise and haunt you. , all backed by intriguing desserts like soursop shaved ice with fresh berries or charred banana pies.
Expect new twists on the signature dishes that helped make Gourdet a Excellent chef fan favorite and star chef, including grilled whole fish wrapped in citrus fruits, herbs, candied peppers and chilies. Also keep an eye out for Peking duck, a cult Departure dish that drew on the techniques of the cooks at New York’s modern Chinese restaurant 66, which he ran early in his career under celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. At Kann, Gourdet will take the duck to a Caribbean space by coating it with cane syrup with hints of pineapple and tamarind, a variant he has been considering for a while.
A little backstory: Gourdet, a Brooklyn-born, first-generation Haitian-American, arrived in Portland in 2008 with his posh Jean-Georges resume, a giant mohawk, and drug addiction in tow. He transformed into a chef like no other in Portland – a sober, gay, black, marathon cook outside a glamorous hotel kitchen, Departure, where he flaunted his own brand of Asian fusion, gluten-free cuisine. or dairy products. Forgotten for years, Gourdet has become a bold, singular voice and advocate for sobriety, healthy eating, and racial equality.
For years, we wondered: When will Gourdet open his own restaurant? What would it look like if he called all the shots? Now we know.
A preview of the renderings shows a sleek, white naturalistic space framed by white oak floors, tropical climbing plants on pillars, metal accents, and a quartzite stone countertop with fabric-upholstered, pointy-legged chairs. I want these primitive-futuristic pottery plates in cobalt blue and pink. The kitchen, a fire cooking island, will be the main show, with a row of seats in front of the action. A private dining room, just as beautiful, can accommodate 34 people.
The design doesn’t overtly reference Haiti – it’s more of a canvas to showcase Haitian food. “The food is so textured, so dynamic and layered that we didn’t want it to compete with the decor,” says Gourdet. “The goal is to create a comfortable space that feels luxurious but lets the food pop and speak for itself.”
The origins of barbecue have been traced back to Haiti by some culinary historians. Gourdet is a believer, which is one of the reasons why an open fire is the keystone of Kann’s menu. The flames will ignite or at least embrace most dishes, including desserts, including a pineapple upside-down cake.
A charred note could also turn into cocktails. Kann aims to rethink the classics, not only incorporating Haitian and Caribbean fruits and ingredients, but, as Gourdet puts it, “breaking away from the way traditional cocktails are made, to keep it fun and interesting.”“The game plan includes a solid zero-proof program, in line with Gourdet’s sobriety.
The first draft menu, about 20 dishes, is subdivided into appetizers, hearth dishes, classic side dishes and desserts, all without dairy products or gluten. I’m curious about Spicy Cod Puff Pastry Puff Pastry and the challenge of creating buttery puff pastry without butter, though Gourdet says he found a good plant-based option. A Gourdet salad is always a must, with combinations and dressings like no other. At Kann, that means young coconuts, summer berries galore, cherries and baby lettuce with smoked peanuts and coconut vinegar – a similar salad showed up at a Kann pop-up. , and it was fantastic.
A few veggies pop out of the hearth section, including a whole head of jerk-spiced cauliflower along with grilled carrots served with smoked herring, a Haitian breakfast favorite, and an African-inspired pepper sauce. For his smoky prime rib, Gourdet will fuse the slow cooking of Texas barbecue with Haitian spices, all topped with Ti-Malice, a tangy Haitian condiment bright with red pearl onions, Scotch bonnet peppers and lime.
Humble side dishes might be the sleeping stars here. The powerfully earthy Haitian black mushroom rice, greasy with lima beans, almost stole the show at Kann’s Winter Village.
Kann’s philosophy includes a “deep commitment to diversity and gender diversity,” says Gourdet. For his head chef, he hired Bangkok native Varanya Geyoonsawat, one of his starting cooks with whom he remained in close contact throughout the restaurant’s birth.
Before Kann, Geyoonsawat never cooked Haitian food, but the two bonded over a shared tropical food cabinet – pineapples, tamarinds and chilies native to Haiti and Thailand. Gourdet calls her “a total badass, with a fantastic palate and incredible drive”. While chatting with Geyoonsawat, she calls her concert in Kann, her first time in charge of a kitchen, “a dream come true”.
During the pandemic, Gourdet had a revelation: he has everything he wants in life. Now, he tells me, he wants to give opportunities to his staff – the kind of growth and door-opening he got working for Jean-Georges, who ignited New York with high-end new French cuisine. lineup in the 2000s. “I look back now and want Kann to deliver that. I want it to be less about me, and more about the team and our collaborative efforts.
For his part, Gourdet could do anything, anywhere right now. He entered the national conversation of celebrity chefs. Last December, Oprah hired him to cook for her holiday season with three other star chefs. In January, he appeared shirtless in Google feeds as his journey to losing a stressful 40 pounds went viral.
But Portland is his place. At 47, he is ready to bet everything on an ambitious project in a battered culinary scene and an uncertain world.
“We are honored and thrilled to do our part to help rebuild the city,” says Gourdet. “I believe in Portland. As someone who has lived here for 15 years, I just designed the restaurant I always wanted. I want it to be a place that brings people from around the world back to Portland.
Maybe he should stand for municipal elections?
For more information on Kann’s summer opening: kannrestaurant.com