Portland, Oregon chef Gabriel Rucker, of Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro was awarded the James Beard Foundation’s 2011 Rising Chef of The Year Award. A consecutive four time nominee, this was the last year he was eligible for the award as it is given only to chef’s under age 30. According to the Foundation, he is the first Oregon chef to receive this esteemed title.
This is not the first time that Rucker has received recognition for his culinary ability. In 2007, he received two awards; Food & Wine named him as one of the Best New Chefs and The Oregonian acclaimed him “Rising Star of 2007.”
Rucker and his restaurants have been featured in several notable publications including: The New York Times, Food and Wine Magazine and People Magazine published the recipe for Le Pigeon Burger.
Foodies are well aware that the Portland culinary scene in non-traditional, it is provocative and sassy. Many of the top chefs are held in high regard for having walked away from cooking school to do their own thing. Even though Rucker, fits the mold of Portland’s most raucous chefs, having left a culinary college before graduating and is in essence a self-taught cook with tattoos of pigeons adorning his arms as in honor of his restaurant Le Pigeon, his cooking is better than most graduates who can only aspire to Top Chef honors.
Le Pigeon is at: 738 E Burnside street, Portland, OR. Reservations are suggested, call: 503-546-8796 [map]
The irreverent chef is self-deprecating, referring to his flagship restaurant as the “the Pidge” or the “Dirty Bird.” However, when he received the Beard Foundation Award as 2011’s Rising Chef of The Year, Gabriel was quick to thank his parents for supporting his decision to drop out of school and join the unconventional, but stellar, Portland restaurant community. He also thanked his business partner in both Le Pigeon and Little Bird, Andy Fortgang. He also made sure to acknowledge the staff of both restaurants.
That acknowledgement was not merely lip-service. Gabriel’s philosophy concerning kitchen crews is that they all must have fun doing their jobs, as that fun produces outstanding dining fare.
The menu at Le Pigeon is a blend of American and French foods with an extensive wine list. Unusual cuts of meats such as offal and steer cheeks are frequently on Le Pigeon’s menu which changes on Rucker’s whim. . One Rucker specialty is called “Cheek to Cheek”, it is a diner made with beef cheeks and halibut cheeks. For obtaining new and exciting menu ideas, Gabriel has posted a “menu idea board” in Le Pigeon’s kitchen and encourages staff member’s suggestions. Food at Le Pigeon is made from fresh Oregon sourced ingredients. The menu has a number of fish, fowl, game and offal dishes, but offer classic foods too.
Little Bird is a less formal, bistro type restaurant. It can be found at: 218 SW 6th Avenue, Portland OR. Reservations are suggested here too: 503-688-5952.
It offers a wider menu selection and is less expensive than Le Pigeon. The only menu item shared by both is Le Pigeons’s “Le Pigeon Burger.” Since opening in late 2010 Little Bird has become a favorite of locals who not only enjoy its food, but also love its bar that has unusual cocktails and cheap beer. Rucker frequents the local farmers market numerous times every week for both restaurants seeking out fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables.
Recently married, Rucker says he does not aspire to leave Portland to head to New York, Chicago or other larger cities where his reputation is well known. As Rucker told the Oregonian is a recent interview: “I’m having so much fun. I’m glad people notice. I have zero desire to advance up the food chain. Nothing is more important in my life than amazing my customers with the unexpected.”