It’s no secret that I have always enjoyed pastry chef Jeff McCarthy’s work at Ten-01.
I was catching up on reading the other day and came upon this post, which I thought was very poignant. It’s about the closing of Ten-01. I asked him if I could post it here.
“We used to joke around in the kitchen about how nice it will be when someone finally writes a review for Ten-01 that didn’t mention it’s rocky start. The highly anticipated opening followed by the complete panning, the splashy new place with kangaroo rump on the menu. Fast forward to a year or so later, Jack Yoss shows up and starts throwing down some of the best food this town was eating. In the following two years, he builds a kitchen crew like none other that I’ve worked with and turns the place around. During the busiest times, it was a fucking machine, churning out beautifully presented delicious food and serving amazing cocktails by Kelley Swenson. The beloved Erica Landon and her remarkable wine list, a staff that cared about each other; about what they were doing, and it reflected in the service. Some not too shabby pastries plated pleasantly by yours truly. Oh, the salad days, the best of times at the best restaurant in town. At least that’s what we all thought. We wanted to make a special place, and those who experienced it knew that it was.
Two and some odd years later the restaurant is closed, doors locked and shades are drawn. No one who survived those salad days was surprised. At least no one who took a second to look around and think: how does this place stay open night after night while doing only sixty or seventy covers? A place that size, in that location, serving the world-class cuisine paired with an award-winning wine list, killer cocktails by people who actually cared about what they were doing, that shit all costs money, folks. Money that Portlanders weren’t willing to spend. The two Chefs who followed Jack tried desperately to give Portland “Fine Diners” what they wanted, wondering why P.F. Chang’s up the street is packed for lunch and dinner day after day. Wondering why mediocre burger joints have a line around the block as their cooks slave to brunoise veg that may never get eaten. A Michelin trained chef making corn dogs and basket after basket of truffle fries. The details of the closure are unimportant, at least in my eyes. The best explanation I got was read not on the web, twitter, facebook, eaterPdx or Food Dude. It was read it in the eyes of the hardworking owner. A profound sense of loss and shame, a sorrow too deep for words. His eyes groped for words that would not come, could not, but they searched the now empty, dusty corners of the place anyway, searching among piles of boxes amidst dejected looking cooks trying to find their pairing knife or quenelle spoon in the carnage. It would be so easy to rage at the higher-ups, to point and shout “WHY?!” But when I really ask why, I have to ask: Why was my paycheck paid every time? Why did the powers that be dump money onto a project that was clearly flailing? Why did they see fit to keep the doors open in these impossible economic times? Presented with those questions I can only look inside, as any staff member of Ten-01 should. Why did we stay open? Why did our investors keep paying us, month after month? Because they believed. The had faith in a solid, happy, loyal crew. Ten-01 was a prodigy child raised by a mother that did not want it, a fine dining experience in a city overrun by food carts and happy hours. You can’t get world-class at a Busch league price, folks. Most of you will never try Chef Michael’s sous vide tempura egg or his fucking perfect charcuterie. Wine that may never grace anyone’s lips collects dust in an unmarked warehouse. One of the most beautiful rooms in the state now stands empty, a cavernous tomb being carved up for scrap.
To all the great people I worked with at Ten-01, I will truly miss you. More of a family style work environment I will probably never find. I wish you all the best in the days to come. Let’s all pool our unemployment checks and throw a ripper of a party. Let us celebrate the closing of one of life’s chapters as we turn to the next. I for one will look back on the past three years with a smile; I had it good in the Pearl and so did ya’ll.”