Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What's Cookin' at Good Keuken

"I remind them that cooking traces itself to the dirt. We telescope into a place, learn what sort of agriculture the soil supports, what evolves through the season, and who historically inhabited the place. Suddenly there is a different clarity at the moment the fire is under the skillet."
- Robert Reynolds

It's not easy to carry on the work of a legend, but that's just what Blake van Roekel (below left) is doing at Good Keuken (pron. COOK-in). Robert Reynolds, a chef and educator who'd cooked his way through some of the best kitchens on at least two continents, settled in Portland and opened The Chef Studio to work one-on-one with students, passing on his passion for local food. Van Roekel had been one of those students, eventually spending five years under Reynolds' tutelage, later becoming the heir to his mission when he died in 2012.

She opened Good Keuken in an intimate space behind Ben Meyers' Old Salt Marketplace, part of Meyers' vision to make the building a center for the surrounding community to gather, eat and learn. Opening with consumer-friendly cooking classes for the general public, van Roekel recently took the next step in achieving her vision with the addition of Chef David Padberg (below right) as Chef Instructor and Director of Curriculum.

With a resumé remarkably similar to Reynolds', Padberg began his career cooking his way through Europe, absorbing cuisines and techniques that helped refine his own approach. Moving to Portland, he was blown away by the region's vast bounty of fresh ingredients. An avid forager and gardener, he built relationships with a network of the area's best farmers and ranchers, rising to run kitchens at some of the city's best restaurants.

Also a dynamite writer and teacher, he's intent on sharing his passion for the seasonality of ingredients, teaching how to obtain and use the best of a region's ingredients in a hands-on culinary education. In rewriting Reynolds' curriculum, he said his goal is to make a more direct connection to the farm, focusing not so much on history as technique, teaching the art of cooking and the principles of taste by increasing the layers of students' experiences.

Other efforts taking shape at Good Keuken include yanking culinary education outside the confines of the kitchen with Get Dirty Farm Tours, a first-in-Oregon tour company where chefs and food lovers—the "farm-curious"—can connect with farmers who are using sustainable, ecologically sound practices. Plus there are the continuing classes in everything from modernist cuisine to butchery with some of the area's best chefs, and opportunities to meet-and-greet with cookbook authors and teachers.

Sounds like a solid next step in Portland's culinary evolution, one Robert Reynolds would have been proud to be part of.

Details: Good Keuken, 5031 NE 42nd Ave. 503-753-1655.

Photos: Collage at top and Blake van Roekel from Good Keuken; David Padberg by Jeremy Fenske.


Jane Pellicciotto said...

Great piece. Love Blake. Wonderful space.

Kathleen Bauer said...

I'm so excited about what Blake, David and their partners have planned, Jane. Can't wait!