July 19, 2007
By Julie Sabatier
PORTLAND, OR 2007-07-19 Naomi Pomeroy and Michael Hebb (better known to Portlanders as the Hebberoys) abruptly closed two of their three restaurants about a year ago when the couple split. In the spring, we heard what Michael is doing with his One Pot meals in Seattle. And this summer we tracked down Naomi Pomeroy to find out what she's been up to in the last year. Julie Sabatier attended a summer dinner she prepared at Ecotrust as part of its Un-earth Dinner series.
(Sound of sizzling salmon and Portland streetcar.)
On an outdoor stairwell overlooking the Farmer's Market, Naomi Pomeroy grills up some deep pink sockeye salmon.
Naomi Pomeroy: "Look at the color on that — I'm actually just honored to be cooking salmon that looks like this and I feel that way about everything that I got for this event. From the moment it was delivered to me or I picked it up at the market, there was something about it that just, all of the product was grown with so much love and care and it just means a lot, you know?"
This is not the first time Pomeroy has cooked at the Ecotrust building in Portland's Pearl District. The mission of the Northwest conservation organization is right in line with her personal philosophy. She cooks with locally grown seasonal ingredients.
Samantha Levine: "One of the greatest things about Naomi is that she buys based on what she sees that day."
Samantha Levine has been helping Naomi serve her food to guests since her days as an underground chef.
Samantha Levine: "So, you never know what you're going to get. It's never a preset menu. It's always going to change based on that day's most ripe and beautiful produce."
In the past year, Naomi has been applying her personal touch to private meals for friends and former clients of Ripe, the catering business she ran with her ex-husband.
Naomi Pomeroy: "I've been very happy with my decision to stay here and kind of deal with what really is the fallout. It certainly was a lot to manage. At the height of everything, we had 95 employees and there I was standing in front of the 95 employees saying, 'We have to get rid of half of you and close half these projects down.' It really humbles you, I mean really humbles you."
By sticking around Portland, Pomeroy has retained a strong relationship with farmers as well as clients. She drew on her strong local ties to create the menu for the Ecotrust dinner. The first course was a salad made up of arugula and three varieties of chicories from Viridian Farms on Grand Island, served with creme fraiche tarts topped with dried zucchini and summer savory. Before serving the first course, Pomeroy made a few remarks about her carefully selected ingredients.
Naomi Pomeroy: "The zucchini was gorgeous. I picked it up at the market yesterday from Groundwork Farms — hand-selected every piece."
The main course was lamb rib chops from Anderson Ranch grilled in the stairwell with Willamette Valley sweet onions and garlicky rainbow chard.
Naomi Pomeroy: "And then at the same time, we're going to serve an Alaskan sockeye salmon with some Prosecco butter and the best fava beans I've ever had in my life from creative growers, precious little baby fennels that we've braised up with some white wine and butter and thyme. All this stuff is local — Raven butter and local thyme."
She topped off the meal with first-of-the-season blueberry tart served with a rosemary-flavored caramel sauce and soft whipped cream. Daniel Etra works at Ecotrust and this was his first experience with Naomi Pomeroy's food.
Daniel Etra: "I think maybe Naomi's renown or reputation comes from the ingredients she uses and the story she tells about that product — I don't know if I was primed by the fava bean comment or not, but I think I really enjoyed them because they were so distinct and I could really pull them out of the dish and really identify the flavor in them."
After a year of cooking out of her home and improvising in other kitchens, Pomeroy has found a more permanent home for her creative skills. Later this summer, she'll take on the role of head chef at Beast.
Pomeroy reluctantly discloses that the restaurant owner Micah Camden is her boyfriend. Though she's quick to add that their personal and profession boundaries will remain very clear. As head chef, she won't deal with the management side of things at all.
Naomi Pomeroy: "I would say to any woman going into business with her husband that her husband should have a lawyer and she should have a lawyer and they should just draft up some documents about who's going to have what responsibilities and, if things don't work out, how are they going to divide that stuff out."
It's been a hard lesson, but it's one she's learned well. And she's ready to move on with her life, and make a name for herself as Pomeroy rather than Hebberoy.
Naomi Pomeroy: "I'd like to really be known for what I bring to seasonality and local farms and the product that I use and who I am for sustainability and things like that, and not so much of the 'who's she dating' or whatever."
Naomi Pomeroy will start her new position at Beast in September.
© Copyright 2007, OPB