Beautiful view of Portland, USA.

Insider's Guide to Portland: Meet Local Chef Jason French

26 July 2017
Read Time: 4.6 mins

Named one of the “best places to eat” in North America by Food & Wine, and “America’s new food Eden” by Time, Portland is home to a creative, accessible culinary scene that goes to great lengths to serve fresh, innovative dishes using superb local ingredients. And Portland chefs are constantly delighting diners with edgy, artfully prepared food. 

Chef Jason French. Jason French knows Portland inside and out.

One such chef is Jason French from Ned Ludd. Everything at Ned Ludd comes out of a brick faced wood-fired oven and this is truly the heart of Ned’s cooking philosophy.  Jason is an avid bicyclist and had a custom bicycle made to ride to the farmers market to buy his vegetables. He also has a social conscience and is riding in the Chef Cycle event next month (300 miles in three days!) to raise money to address children’s hunger.

What is your cooking philosophy? 

Use the best ingredients from the best producers and approach each element with curiosity, humility and a deep want for hospitality.

Why a wood-fired oven? 

I inherited the space, a former wood fired pizza restaurant in 2008. While I had cooked at restaurants with wood fired ovens, grills and rotisserie, I never thought I'd run a restaurant with ONLY a wood fired oven and a two-burner hot plate!

Ned Ludd restaurant in Portland, USA. Ned Ludd is a top spot in the Portland foodie scene.

What is craft cooking?

Craft cooking pays respect to our history of western food heritage mostly from Europe but the basic elements of craft cooking are global. Craft cooking believes in simple, minimally processed food using techniques from our grandmothers and their grandmothers before them. It is about building flavour and providing a genuine connection with our patrons through our food. Some primary crafts utilized at Ned Ludd are pickling, smoking, charcuterie and fermentation.

What do travellers need to know about food in Portland? 

Kilo for kilo we offer a very broad, affordable and exciting food destination. Each and every neighbourhood seems to be bursting with fun, cool, delicious stops from breakfast to late night options and all the spaces in between!

Where to sleep?

You can choose your neighbourhood and really sink in its eating, drinking and shopping offerings. There are plenty of hotels downtown that offer great eating and drinking as well. From the curated set at the Ace Hotel, home of the venerable drinks and eats at Clyde Common and coffee from Stumptown, to the latest addition in the recently renovated Hilton that houses, Jackrabbit from Bay Area chef Chris Constantino and local wunderkind, Chris DiMinno.

Hilton Portland hotel. Enjoy a classy stay at the Hilton in Portland.

Where to drink?

Portland is a drinking town! We boast a bevy of new and time-tested breweries, wineries and distilleries! Plan a tour of each for one of your afternoons, depending on your proclivities! For bars my faves are Rum Club, Multnomah Whiskey Library or Expatriate for liquor, Ambonnay Champagne Bar and Ardor Natural Wines or the Southeast Wine Collective for Wines and The Commons or Upright or Cascade Brewing for suds.

Where to play?

There are countless ways to enjoy all the green space in town but a walk through Forest Park is a must and then rent a bike to take advantage of our bike thoroughfares and really see the city while playing at the same time!

Where to shop?

I think each neighbourhood offers some unique little clothing boutiques aplenty but Portland has some true gems that offer fine home goods at Rejuvenation or Schoolhouse Electric, curated handmade goods from Multnomah Whiskey Library or Tanner Goods or Kiriko Made and zip into Portland's history with a stop by Hippo Hardware.

Where to explore?

I will always say the best part about Portland besides its views is the proximity to both mountain and ocean. Drive the Columbia Gorge to Hood River for stunning views and breweries or head northwest to Astoria for a solid Northwest history lesson and some more great eating and drinking. The coast, due west of town offers breathtaking vistas, quaint towns and lots of seafood opportunities. 

Willamette Valley vineyard near Portland USA Take a day trip to taste the wines of the Willamette Valley.

Of course no trip to the Oregon would be complete without a drive down the fertile Willamette Valley, home to world-class wineries, some great restaurants and explore the culinary backbone of Oregon! For the intrepid adventurer, Wallowa County in Eastern Oregon will have visitors wondering if Oregon can get any better!?

Explore the four quadrants of Portland... and beyond.

What’s your secret Portland tip?

Planning is everything, I suggest breaking your stay into six days: two days out of town and the other four days exploring each quadrant of the city. Also resist the strong urge to move here.... it rains, like, all the time ;)

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