Chef Robert Reynolds, who passed away this morning after a struggle with cancer, was known to many affectionately as “Row-Bear”. Over the years, he touched almost everybody in Portland’s food scene.
We can thank Robert for his part in pushing Portland into becoming a stronger and more professional food city. From his work running his Chef Studio, to his workshops, classes, intimate dinners, and elegant writing, Robert’s passion for food, perfection and la joie de vie ran deep. He was one of a kind, with an unwavering vision for teaching, not just cooking.
I was not close to Robert, but did socialize and work with him on occasion, and every single encounter with him mattered. From seeing him at the Portland Farmers market where he would spend hours looking for THE PERFECT tomato, or his instructions on how to cook, “don’t just follow directions, use all your senses, feel as much as you taste,” he did not take food or life for granted – everything mattered. He could be a gentle bear when you needed it, coaxing you out of a funk with a glass of Bordeaux and a cheese plate; or, once when I was rushing and focused on too many things at a time, he tested me. “What’s the seasoning in this dish?” Robert challenged our dinner party. I blurted out an answer, but was quickly given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. “No, no no, slow down, smell it. Look at it. You need to concentrate and experience this.” Of course he was right.
It’s those kinds of lessons that stick with you. Slow down, don’t rush, do things right, enjoy, taste. That was Robert’s way.
“An Excuse to be Together” – is Robert’s tome to food, living and his philosophy. As we busy ourselves with work, travel, and all the distractions of daily living, it is important to remember that food brings us together. Robert is over many of us still, connecting us and reminding us the things important in life are the bonds that we form and the excuses to be together.
Chef Robert Reynolds. Your imprint remains strong. You bring us together.