Chef Paul Kahan to cook from the heart at Feast Portland

The fifth annual Feast Portland festival promises to be more exciting than ever. Events include hands-on classes, tastings and the ever-popular Dinner Series. At the Sandwich Invitational, chefs from Austin to Nashville will compete to offer the best tastes between two slices of bread. On the last day of the festival, the Brunch Village smorgasbord will stuff everyone to the gills with meat, bread and pastries. And as always, the libations will flow.

This year, Chicago chef and restaurateur Paul Kahan will be featured at two events: a dinner with Ned Ludd’s Jason French and the outdoor Night Market, which will feature Latin American flavors. Kahan, who won the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award in 2013, is thrilled to be a part of the festival.

“Honestly, it’s my favorite food event in the whole country,” he says.

Through his company, One Off Hospitality Group, Kahan runs eight restaurants and bars in Chicago. His offerings range from Italian seafood dishes to luncheonette fare. He has a particular talent for pairing food and drink; one of his restaurants is a European-style beer hall, and his award-winning bar, The Violet Hour, serves modern comfort food with amazingly creative cocktails.

The one constant in Kahan’s diverse restaurant empire is the quality of his ingredients.

“I was one of the earlier adopters in Chicago to begin working hand in hand with farmers,” he explains, “and it has made sustainability the cornerstone of what we do.” He describes his culinary philosophy as getting “good product and doing as little as possible to it. I try to teach all of our team members the importance of sustainability and community, as well as cooking from the heart with passion.”

Kahan grew up in a Jewish family that owned a deli on Chicago’s Devon Avenue, which was then the heart of the local Jewish community. His father also owned a smoked fish company that supplied Jewish delis.

“To this day,” he reminisces, “the best thing I’ve ever eaten was at my dad’s smoked fish house. I was about 12 years old the first time I pulled a freshly smoked chub out of the smoker, peeled back the flesh and popped it in my mouth. It was still warm and delicious in its simplicity.”

In college, Kahan delivered his father’s smoked fish to delis all over the city. He also began working in an organic food co-op, which kindled his interest in cooking.

For Feast Portland’s Night Market, Kahan will feature a dish inspired by the Tex-Mex cuisine offered at his Dove’s Luncheonette restaurant. At his Dinner Series event, which will feature the Hyland Estates and Domaine Drouhin wineries, he and French will cook outside over an open fire. Their collaboration is sure to delight festivalgoers. “He is my favorite chef in Portland!” Kahan enthuses.

Jason French and Paul Kahan at Elder Hall: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7 pm. USA Pears Night Market at Zidell Yards: Friday, Sept. 16 at 6 pm. For tickets and more information, please visit

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