When a celebrity chef celebrates Mom, family, home, and cooking, he's got his priorities straight
Chef Patrick McKee loves his EuroCAST — and Sunday family meals
We’re going to spend time next week with one of EuroCAST’s favorite chefs, Portland’s own Chef Patrick McKee. Iron Chef winner with his mentor Vitaly Paley. TV star. Innovator. Father of two. And a man who loves his mother’s cooking. Find out more!
The last time we hooked up with Chef Patrick McKee, he was coming off of participating in one of the Pacific Northwest’s biggest food festivals, Feast 2018, sponsored by online magazine and national promoter of all things delicious, Eater. He had been on TV yet again, promoting his famous Cacio e Pepe, a simple Italian dish that is ridiculously hard to pull off. And he had just been asked to compete on another major food competition series.
Things continue to move fast for one of Portland’s most sought-after chefs. He’s opening a new pop-up in one of Portland’s hottest food districts. His new concept is called Estes (a family name), and it’s doing its soft opening this weekend. We’ll be lucky enough to attend.
And, next week, we’ll be working with Chef Patrick to learn some cooking secrets that he’ll execute with EuroCAST cookware. He’s been using it in his professional kitchens — even on TV — for months, and he loves it.
HIs main themes in his cooking are incredible flavor, innovation, nods to tradition, and joy. “When people feel joy when they eat my food, I’ve done it right,” he told me. Whether he’s cooking elk osso buco or duck breast on NBC-TV’s Sports Northwest, or a bit more home-driven fare with Molly Riehl on FOX 12 Oregon, he’s all about joy on the plate.
Food and home
For Chef McKee, his food journey started at home growing up. Sundays were special. Just as for most people in Europe, McKee’s Sundays growing up was family day — in fact, it’s family meal day — and the expectation was to be present and prepared to be wowed by Mom’s cooking. Many of the chef’s dishes today are inspired by his mother’s recipes. Spaghetti and meatballs, mole, even his Cacio e Pepe.
Wind Waters Rafting magazine wrote of McKee, “Sunday night dinners with his parents being a day-long affair that were never missed and were a cherished part of his childhood. His mom primarily made Italian food, which has influenced McKee’s palate to this day.” Indeed, signature dishes of McKee’s include Corn & Ricotta Ravioli and Alaskan Dungeness & Snow Crab Pasta alla Chitarra, clearly marrying his local and American ingredients with classic Italian techniques. Thanks to Mom.
One of his favorite dishes is his mother’s green beans.
You can make it yourself, like McKee does. Start by blanching a helping of well-chosen green beans for a minute or two, then let them cool.
Render several slices of cubed bacon and finely chopped shallot in pan for five minutes over a medium-to-low heat. Add the green beans to the pan and then follow it with a teaspoon or so of a quality red wine vinegar. Then add in two to three tablespoons of best-quality butter.
Top off the dish with chopped fresh parsley, a few handfuls of fried onions or shallots, and a dash of sea salt.
Working with the best
In Portland, McKee learned alongside his mentor, legendary James Beard Award-winning Vitaly Paley, where he was a long-timer at Paley’s Place, one of America’s best restaurants whose top honors have continued over more than a decade. That’s hard to pull off in a competitive market like Portland, Oregon.
Paley, whom Chef McKee affectionately calls simply Vitaly, has been producing both great food and entertainment. From cookbooks to competitions, Vitaly Paley shines (his team — which included McKee — beat Jose Garces in an Iron Chef competition where the secret ingredients was the humble radish).
And Chef McKee is keeping that tradition alive. With his upcoming spot on yet another hot national cooking competition show, McKee deploys his talent, recipes, and EuroCAST cookware. You’ll have to see the episode to find out who won (we’re not telling, but we’ll keep you in the loop).
McKee and Paley didn’t meet by accident. As Digital Trends reported a few years ago, McKee “ began his career as a chef at the now-shuttered Zefiro, a spot that put Portland on the map when it first opened in the 1990. There, he excelled under the direction of renowned chef Christopher Israel.” McKee was hooked on the idea of building a career as a chef from that moment. And Chef Israel gave him the best advice for pursuing that dream, McKee recounts. “What he told me when I was leaving was to find the best chef that I could work with,” says McKee. “I ended up with Vitaly Paley, where I was for 10 years.” McKee started as a line cook. By the time he left Paley’s side to go out on his own, he was executive chef at Paley’s Place. The parting was amicable, according to PDXMonthly.com. “We’ve had an amazing run tougher,” says Paley. “[McKee’s] loyalty was unparalleled all these days.”
When in Spain
With an Iron Chef win under his belt, McKee left Paley’s restaurant in 2012 to work In Spain at Arzak, known for its culinary innovation and precise techniques in delivering amazing Spanish food. Arzak, located in San Sebastian, Spain, and helmed by daughter and father team, Elena and Juan Mari Arzak, has been named one of the world’s 50 Best Restaurants, with it coming in at #8 in the world as judged by S Pellegrino in 2013.
McKee’s tie at Arzak exposed him to modern Basque cuisine, and to outstanding dishes including pigeon with potato “feathers”, the Red Space Egg with a skin of red peppers, and a so-called Big Chocolate Truffle with candy floss, carob, cacao, and chocolate — a crunchy, chocolate-y piece of heaven. Arzak’s wine cellar boasts 100,000 bottles. And Arzak is not only a 3 Michelin starred restaurant, it is also built inside of a home. Juan Mari Arzak’s grandparents built the place as a home in 1897.
He returned to Paley’s Place with new passion, concepts, and skills.
What he eats
McKee loves all kinds of food. He worked at Arzak in Spain, where his love of Spanish food, simplicity, and interesting spices developed. And all that he layered into his French- and Russian-inspired cooking he executed with Paley. But he’s equally passionate about Asian cuisine.
In Portland, McKee loves to eat out when he can (which is challenging with a family and other commitments). He loves Ham Agnolotti at restaurant Renata, the dim sum at House of Hong, Lipen Luk Tentuk at Annapurna Cafe (“The ghost chili joins two other chilies that make the heat intense, but are balanced by the noodles and ground lamb,” says McKee. “I’d eat here every week!” reports ChefsFeed.com.) His tastes show up on his plates. From a delicious carpaccio to fish with mole, he covers the territory — including a popular mussels with bone marrow toast. His recent inventions include stuffed rabbit, and ravioli with pork cheek filling.
You’ll be able to learn more about Chef Patrick McKee coming up in these pages on Recipe of the Week. It’s going to be exciting, delicious, and — you can bet on it — joyful.
More news on Patrick McKee next week! Stay tuned.