By Heidi von Tagen
Gorgeous Bits Blog
A few months ago, I thought it would be cool to start a series of posts called “Chef’s at Home” which would feature Culinary Instructors in their home kitchens talking about what inspires them and what they love about cooking at home. I started out with Chef Wilke. Wilke founded OCI, the cooking school where I’ve worked now for over four years. I’d met him over 10 years ago at another culinary school in town and he’s constantly amazed me with his Rock Star attitude and how he exudes passion and confidence in the kitchens at school.
Chef Wilke’s wife Jill greeted me warmly at the door when I first arrived to take photos. She pushed an antique, thrifted cup of French pressed coffee with cream into my cold hands as she led me into the golden glow of the kitchen. The fragrance of onions sautéed in butter and warm croissants from a local bakery infused my senses and the chill of the damp, grey Portland weather vanished behind me as the door closed.
Chef Brian Wilke is the co-founder of asmall, locally-owned culinary schoolnestled in the heart of the Goose Hollow neighborhood in downtown Portland Oregon. He’s been teaching and cooking for over 30 years, and has influenced and mentored an enormous number of young cooks who make up the thriving restaurant scene in Portland. He values local, independently-owned businesses and restaurants and is a part of the pulse that makes the food scene in Portland such a Mecca of unique cooking styles and people.
A well-oiled, gracefully curving butcher block counter separates the dining room and kitchen — Wilke salvaged it from an old Portland bakery and refinished it to be an appealing and practical focal point. He chops away on the surface, deftly wielding his cherished Kramer knife, making short work of the buttery slab of saltyOlympic Provisionsbacon and turnips from a local farmer’s co-op calledWealth Underground.
Everything in this space, from the appliances to the utensils and ingredients, are beautiful and have purpose. Chef Wilke and Jill are practical in their approach to cooking, design and living but embrace the artistic side of their surroundings with equal love and creativity. To the left of the stove is a collection of mortar and pestles. Each corner of the kitchen showcases the rare combination of useful still life.
A small ceramic tray neatly displays the most used, staple ingredients: two kinds of salt, an aged balsamic vinegar, onions and shallots, and a re-purposed bottle of wine used to decant high quality olive oil.
The bottle of 1981 Opus wine on display was shared with his father over 25 years ago in Chicago and is a loving reminder of that memorable meal.
What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
The biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen?
How would you describe your cooking style?