An Interview of Leather Storrs, via Nancy Rommelmann
Holy shit, Rocket is my restaurant and I’m already sick of hearing about it. Why would a restaurant exist in the firmament for so long without materializing and why should anyone care? These questions have a number of answers and I’ll try and touch on all of them.
1. Have I really been reading about this “Rocket for 2 years?”
Yep, and here’s why: Rocket has been two things. In its first incantation Rocket was a joint venture between me and Kurt Huffman, a childhood friend. It was to be a big, bustly, salad-driven bistro. We were negotiating with Bob Gerding at the Ten01 space, but for $30 a square foot, triple net, we couldn’t make the numbers work. Back to the drawing board and Huffman decides to take a job in Canada. He’s out. Version 2.0, its present form, is a direct result of a conversation I had with Kevin Cavenaugh, the wunderkid behind the Rot and Fife’s building. Kevin showed me a rendering of this futuristic 4 story jewel and asked if I wanted in. I love Cavenaugh, but he doesn’t love schedules. This building is 1 year behind. The reasons for the delays, however, have positive ramifications for my restaurant, so I can’t be too pissed. Maybe I’ll learn to keep my mouth shut…
Anyway, this building is sweet. It’s what’s called Leed Platinum, which means that it uses 50% less energy than code, it has a green roof (with raised garden beds for us and room for chickens), it has its own well (free water, bottle water quality) and about 45 other aspects that make it enviroriffic. All of these innovations take lots of time, lots of permit revisions and lots of money. I believe the wait is worth it. We have an extraordinary view down Burnside of Portland. It’s what I call the Brooklyn view. [NR: I’m from Brooklyn! And he’s right; the view is incredible.] Further we have a big, uncovered, deck that hangs out over the street (6 months of wrangling with the city). For 2 months of the year this will be the coolest tree fort in town (and the only one with liquor).
2. What and who is Rocket?
Rocket the restaurant borrows meaning from both Rocket (the ship) and Rocket (arugula). In my mind, the restaurant represents the juncture of the natural and the technological. It is an exploration of the friction that occurs when technology is applied to natural ingredients. Our symbol is the rocket flower: It is four-petaled and looks like a propeller. The idea that the natural symbol has such a mechanical quality is nifty.
I own the restaurant with Mukund Devan, a long-time cook and former sous chef at Noble Rot. The Chef de Cuisine is Henry Kibit, also a former Rot sous. Henry has spent quite some time with Jeff Cerciello, the chef of Bouchon and Ad Hoc (both Keller properties in Yountville), perfecting techniques and soaking up genius. The bar manager is Chris Abbot, most recently of Ciao Vito. Chris is a subdued, but polished pro from the old school. He will not make drinks named after body parts. The general manager is Kami French, a whip-cracking tough who dots her i’s and cleans up nice.
3. And the food?
Our food will be high-tech American, or rather “American Sly.” We will push on the idea of molecular gastronomy a bit while trying to keep kookiness to a minimum. A premium will be placed on severe and spare presentation. Is it cute? It’s out. The first question is always, is it American? The second, is it delicious? Our entrée section is a matrix: 10-12 proteins, 10-12 sides. Pick one protein, pick 2 sides.
4. Now what?
Thanks for being patient and I apologize for this protracted opening. We want to be serving food by the 1st week in April. I’m honored that people are curious. I am, too. Would you like a job, a spot on our email list, or an outlet for your thoughts? Send it all to Rocketpdx@gmail.com
Thank you, Leather Storrs
The New York Times Dining Out section has a ton of interesting articles today. The front page has a huge piece on BBQ, but two other articles really caught my eye. One is called “Trans Fat Fight Claims Butter as a Victim. To make a long story short, butter contains a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat. Some research shows these natural fats are actually a good thing, but the F.D.A., in their infinite wisdom, has decided that processed trans fat, and natural trans fat are the same. Therefore, any product that has over .5 grams must be labeled as containing that unpopular ingredient. Enter city ordinances banning trans fat, and the biggest player of them all, Starbucks, who wants to be able to say their foods contain no trans fats.
Edict to their bakers: all foods made for us must be zero trans fats. That has sent bakeries, like Schwartz Brothers, which do all the Starbucks baking for 600 stores in Washington and Oregon scrambling to develop new recipes using trans fat-free margarine. Gack!
We’ve gone back and replaced all of the nice, good butter with supposedly trans fat-free margarine,” said Rick Doyle, the Schwartz regional manager. “The hardest one for us was the croissant. We replaced butter with palm oil. From my perspective, it’s not a croissant any more. It’s lost all its lamination and flavor.”
Why do I have a feeling that five years from now all these margarine’s and whatnot will be found to cause cancer?
Finally, The Times also has an article on food critics that have been sued over bad reviews. It’s a rather interesting article, boiling down to this happening more and more often, but never going anywhere:
“But American judges have apparently never punished even tough, mean and wrongheaded restaurant reviews. As the federal appeals court in Manhattan put it in 1985, “reviews, although they may be unkind, are not normally a breeding ground for successful libel actions.”