The Night Chef
By Bob Koches
As a restaurant critic for the Portland area, what if I told you that there was a place run by a chef so mysterious and elusive that you might never discover its location. This restaurant is only known through whispers, hints, and suggestions, but never is there any concrete or written information. In fact, it doesn’t even have a name.
First, let me say that it is only open after midnight. It is said to be the haunt of those in the industry, those chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, servers, bartenders and others who provide us with our meals during normal operating hours.
To get to this restaurant I traveled up Castle Road, through swirling fog, deep into the woods in the foothills of the Cascades. That is as much as I can tell you, as I was sworn to secrecy as to the exact location. When I opened the door I saw what appeared to be a counter-culture convention. Everyone sported tats, piercings and dyed hair of various hues. The air was filled with thick smoke and raucous conversation. Looking around I spotted a number of the cutting-edge chefs from the Portland area.
Plates came out of the kitchen, with the customers themselves passing them around. There seemed to be no menu, but dishes kept appearing from the open kitchen. Presiding was the Night Chef himself, dressed all in black. He was a tall man, regally thin with an aquiline nose and an opaque complexion.
As I tasted the various dishes, I could not determine what I was eating. The spicing seemed classical, and yet the meat had a slightly sweet taste. Those seated around me, all professionals in the kitchens of Portland, said they too were puzzled as to the exact nature of the ingredients in the various dishes. Mind you, these are some of the finest pallets in the area.
As the Night Chef finished preparing the dishes, he relaxed at a table across the room. He glanced my way and beckoned me to join him, agreeing to give me a brief interview. Did I mention that no one knows his name? Throughout our entire talk I was not able to persuade him to reveal it to me.
I wanted to know his background, so I asked him how and where he was trained. He leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and tenting his long, thin fingers. “I studied the masters,” he answered with an enigmatic smile on his pale, thin lips. He then began naming a veritable cornucopia of world famous chefs through the ages, including 14th century French master chef, Guillaume Tirel, known as Tallevent, 15th century chef, Lancelot de Casteau, 18th century chef Vincent la Chapelle, and 19th century chefs Auguste Escofier and Henri-Paul Pelaprat, co-founder of Le Cordon Bleu.
When I asked him, “How do you make the meat so sweet and tender?” He raised his head, and stared at me with his flat, black eyes, lips curling in a sneer, and replied, “I cannot tell you all of my secrets, my friend, but I will say this: the protein must be well drained.”
My final question, before he concluded the interview was, “Why do you have this restaurant and what is the purpose?” As he rose from the table, he left me with this response: “I want to serve mankind.”