Under fire, Portland boss tries to build a fairer workplace

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As Mr. Gourdet sat in the kitchen at Kann’s Winter Village last month, a side door was opened to the exterior 10-yurt “village”, provided by American Express as part of a nationwide program. Tia Vanich, director of project operations and Mr. Gourdet’s business partner, was helping to refresh the tents before the next service. As of January, dining out was still banned in Portland. (These restrictions were lifted earlier this month.)

“Without the yurts, we are not in business,” Ms. Vanich said.

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Mr. Gourdet’s attempt to create a more inclusive and harmonious work environment is more evident in Kann’s kitchen. “I could have endowed this place with a bunch of white men in, like, literally five minutes,” he says. “But as a gay black man, and with everything that was going on with the math and George Floyd, I didn’t want to do that.”

In the kitchen, Varanya Geyoonsawat, 35, who as sous chef is the highest-ranking kitchen employee behind Mr. Gourdet, worked alongside Jasmyne Romero-Clark, 27, preparing all three menus for six course tasting – a pescatarian, a vegan. , an omnivore – served five evenings a week. Each menu included a salad of ripe plantains, squash, and marinated apples in a cashew vinaigrette, a version of joumou soup, and an upside-down banana cake draped in warm coconut cream.

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Kann’s food, much of which is served in polished Staub pots, is considerably more rustic than the modern Pan-Asian cuisine Mr. Gourdet was originally known for. He acknowledges that the glitzy rooftop restaurant is out of step with the earthy, do-it-yourself aesthetic of the chef-owned restaurants that put Portland on the map.

He mentioned Ms Geyoonsawat, who, along with Ms Romero-Clark, worked at Departure towards the end of her tenure, as a chef whose talents he did not fully recognize in Departure’s vibrant kitchen. He said he needed to work more closely with her, testing recipes for his cookbook, for him to realize that she had the ability to run Kann’s cooking.

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