<Updated by Willamette Week>
Remember Eric Bechard, once lauded chef of Alberta Street Oyster Bar and Grill? Remember how, after a short stint in Seattle, he wanted a quieter life and moved to McMinville to open his own restaurant? He did exactly that, but something about the laid back small town life must not have rubbed him the right way, because he ended up being tasered or and pepper-sprayed (details seem fuzzy) and thrown into jail after a fight over the origin of a pig (it was from Iowa – gasp!) at Cochon 555 last night.
Yes, you heard that right. This is one passionate chef.
From Kelly Clarke over at Willamette Week,
According to multiple witnesses, Bechard, now the chef/co-owner of the lauded new Thistle restaurant in McMinnville, started a fistfight with Cochon 555 founder Brady Loweoutside Magic Garden, an Old Town strip joint. Earlier in the evening he also headbutted Elk Cove Vineyard’s Craig Hedstrom before being dragged out of the Cochon 555 afterparty at Davis Street Tavern by none other than notorious chef Tom Hurley. Apparently, Bechard, an attendee at the food event, was angry that Lowe had allowed a pig from Iowa (the winning pig, in fact) to be used as part of the Portland Cochon 555 competition.
I haven’t been to Thistle since they first opened, but now I’m thinking a return visit may be in order. This seems to be a chef with passion. You can read the sordid details — now with mug shots! — over at Willamette Week.com
Updated: Willamette Week has more details, including Brady Lowe getting his leg broken in the fracas, and a statement from Bechard.
Bechard says, “Brady and I never spoke. I had not talked to him at the [Cochon 555] event, at Davis Street or while we were at Magic Garden,” he says. “What I’m assuming (and I’m speculating here) was what I had said to people at the event carried to him and he had an issue because he thought I was discrediting his event. It was blown out of proportion on his side. Everybody was drinking and I’m embarrassed about [what happened]…. I apologize to everyone involved…. I own a business here and I’m very Oregon-centric, maybe to a fault. I’m not going to withdraw any of my statements. The fact that an Iowa pig won the event was ironic since we were in a room of Oregon farmers.”
Head over there for all the latest details.
Speaking of pigs…is Tom Hurley still on the city’s dole? I lost track of that story. Also, Food dude, did you mean to say sordid (as opposed to sorted) when linking the story in WW? And as for Eric Bechard?
What a frickin loser!
Food Dude says
Yes. Yes. Thanks :)
oh,god… i’ve had nights like that. i guess if you’re going to do it, you may as well really do it up..
Mac Foodie says
As an ex-angry young Chef. I can tell you there is a difference between being an extremely passionate chef deeply devoted to your craft and your customers and being an angry(alcoholic)young Chef who thinks he is above everyone else. I know first hand that Bechard treats his purveyors with the same contempt that he treated this situation. The Food and Wine scene in McMinnville has been evolving and maturing for over Forty years with pioneers like Nick Pieriano (Nicks Cafe) and David Lett (Eyrie Vineyards) who paved the way, peacefully I might add, so that a new generation can come and help build that reputation. Bechard has smudged that reputation. The McMinnville food scene was built on “how can I help my nieghbors” not “I am better than my neighbors and I am always right”. We all work together to make a better food scene Wake up before you burn all your bridges Eric.
Pearl District says
I know a lot of passionate chefs, but committing assault is hardly my definition of passion. Imagine the harm this will do to our town’s reputation. A big national event comes through, and the promoter gets attacked by a local over a f*cking pig breed? Give me a break. I know one restaurant I won’t be visiting.
As we know there are always 2 sides to every story. I don’t think it is right to assume that Eric is 100% at fault here although violence is never acceptable. I don’t know him nor was I there, but do know from witnesses that there are inaccuracies in the WW article. Innocent until proven guilty, no?
homer's son says
My bigger concern is not the fist fight, I like a chef with passion, but that he was at a place as scuzzy as The Magic Garden. Tacky! Tacky Tacky!
It’s certainly living up to the nickname “Tragic Gardens.”
I was hoping you would report on this! I was at both Cochon555 and the afterparty and saw this go down. I watched Bechard come in and interact throughout the evening with people, with a very apparrent chip on his shoulder. He came off flippant and dismissive- like he was too good to be there. Funny, since he stayed the whole time AND went to the after party.
Flippant and dismissive, too good to be there, sounds like Eric.
He also acts that way being in Mcminnville, remember Eric, you came here, we didnt invite you.
I agree completely. Ate at his place once. Rudest dining experience I’ve ever had. Won’t go back. Funny how a large portion of his wine list is from France! Being a local (and very small) wine producer, I guess I should be outraged at the hypocrisy.
It is an absolute shame that something like this had to happen. Portland has the rep of being edgy, but now it gets to add tacky and no class to the list?!
This is a great event for the restaurant community and is gathering great momentum. It is great that Portland got to be a part of it. I’m sure it will look really good for the city when everyone is at the Food & WIne event in Aspen and the promoter gets asked why he’s in a cast…”I got beat up by a couple of chefs in Portland.” This shameful conduct ruins it for the rest of the restaurant community that were part of Cochon and stand by the message that was trying to be promoted.
Passion? How about stupidity. It all makes sense, he has been an idiot for a long time. And, his food really isn’t THAT good. No desire to visit his place in McMinnville. What a complete loser.
I come here not to defend either of the chefs, but the venue. Leave the Magic Garden alone!
No shit. MG didn’t do nuthin’ to nobody.
Well… Was planning to celebrate a surprise birthday at Thistle in June.
Any restaurant suggestions in McMinnville?
No knuckle throwing with my pig please.
Please and thank you.
Nick’s is your best bet, in my opinion.
comidabonita: you can try La Rambla or Bistro Maison or Cuvee in Carlton, but my best meal in Mac has been at Nick’s Italian Cafe. (I just moved to McMinnville in January and have eaten at all of these places, including thistle. Thistle is good enough I wouldn’t be holding this against Eric, but that’s just my opinion.)
Amy W says
I’m a foodie living in Mac and second that. Thistle is good enough to hopefully rise above Eric’s antics. The real victims in this debacle are Eric’s colleagues at Thistle. Emily is amazing at running that place and choosing exceptional wines. Their new cocktail bar has a great menu being served up by the most delightful Kiwi you’ll ever meet. I want Thistle to survive for their sakes, not Eric’s.
That said, Nick’s Italian Cafe is exceptional too. In my experience La Rambla can be hit-and-miss, but our best meal there was our most recent one so maybe they’re on an upswing. I can’t recommend Bistro Maison — it has its rabid fan base but my meal there was disappointing. Also try the Dundee Bistro in Dundee — chef Jason Stoller-Smith is excellent.
Big Bro says
Bechard’s a joke – ignorant. He insults the event for his own self-gain, portraying his self-proclaimed devotion to local producers as an excuse to deputize himself as a freakin Local Pork Warden-of-sorts, police contest policy, instigate trouble and ultimately assault the event promoter and his girlfriend…when he apparently had NO IDEA what the event promotes and how the contest is played.
Portland was shamed by his representation and conduct. Nice mohawk.
LOL at “pork warden”.
Friends… I know both parties involved and was at the Cochon555 event prior to the “incidents”. I can tell you that neither party is innocent as the brown liquor started flowing very heavily at about 7:30PM. I can also tell you that neither party is a bad person and, while it is certainly not an excuse for poor behavior, the amount of alcohol involved may have played a significant part. Neither could have been saying or doing much in the realm of rationality given the intake for the evening. I urge you not to judge either person based on this media explosion.
Thistle is a restaurant VERY worthy of your patronage. Cochon555 was a very fun event prior to the brown liquor. Both men deserve a second chance. Perhaps not a third chance, but certainly a second…
I find it a little tiring when liquor is used as an excuse for bad behavior. Whether Bechard is solely responsible is beside the point. What should have been a nice event has been tainted. The press should be about the participating chefs, wineries, and the hosting city, not headbutting and bad haircuts. Everything I’ve read suggests that Bechard showed up to this event with a chip on his shoulder, and that liquor only fanned the flames. If Bechard’s restaurant takes a hit as result of his behavior, I’d say he has it coming.
I remember hearing a story about Dan Mondok and his sous chef being thrown out of Lucier. Apparently the group showed up drunk and proceeded to loudly trash talk the food, etc. I only mention this because my personal theory is that some chefs have a difficult time not being in the limelight at any given moment, and that deflated egos and a few drinks can result in some pretty ugly behavior.
Wow, Mondok is a DB of elite proportions too? COLOR ME SHOCKED.
Ironic that Brady and Carolina had to come all the way from Georgia to be assaulted by a douche bag redneck. Stay classy.
Big Bro says
The simple fact is this – If Bechard was so disgusted with Cochon and event’s alleged practices of “not supporting local” why in the world would he “support” the Cochon after-party and follow the Cochon “entourage” from bar to bar?? HE WAS LOOKING TO INCITE A FIGHT…PERIOD.