When we checked in with awesomely-named Chef Dax Erickson last year, he talked about what it’s been like to watch the Portland food scene blossom since moving here in 1990. He talked also about the important role that health and nutrition play in his kitchen, which is quite appropriate considering he is employed by one of Portland’s most iconic temples of health, the Multnomah Athletic Club.
This time, our conversation began simply enough. Yes, Erickson is still a sous chef at the MAC, working under classical French-leaning Executive Chef Philippe Boulot. Yes, he is still enjoying that job very much. For a moment, it didn’t look like there was much of a story.
But there’s always a story. “Hmmm. Well actually last summer, I did take a sabbatical from the MAC from June through September.” Ok, that’s a long time to be gone. Juicy. Go on. “I accepted an offer from the Steamboat Inn, way down in the middle of the Umpqua National Forest. I’d been curious about what it might be like to run my own kitchen, and honestly I had a lot of vacation time built up.” As it happened, Chef Boulot had a relationship with the owners of the Steamboat Inn, and knew that they had recently been bringing in guest chefs who were willing and able to move down there for the busy season and run the show. Erickson was more than up to the task. “They were really looking for someone to bring different things to their menu, to keep it fresh. I wanted to challenge myself. At the club we get very spoiled. We do a lot of business with the local farmers, and we’re lucky to have enough financial backing that we have everything we need on speed dial. If we need something, we’ve got it in the kitchen within the hour.”
The Steamboat Inn, located about 40 miles outside of Roseburg, is about as rural as they come. “We’d get one delivery a week from Sysco, and then everything else had to be super local. I had a local, a sort of hippie kid growing my vegetables just up the road in a greenhouse that he built himself. We’re talking literally straight from the ‘farm’ to my prep table. Working in such a remote environment, everybody knows everybody. And this kid, his family had been eating at the inn for ever, and when he was old enough, he decided he wanted to grow his own food, and start sort of a micro farm down there. He’d call me on Monday and tell me what was ready, what was good. It was so hands on, and that was pretty cool.”
Other than living a life of polar opposites (i.e. roughing it in the middle of a national forest and cooking at the MAC), Erickson is excited about his website, “The Poor Man’s Guide to Living Well” which he’ll be launching soon. It will feature articles about healthy, scratch cooking and living well on a budget. We can get behind that! Get a little starter dose of his philosophy this coming Sunday at his demo!
See you at the Market August 12th, at noon!