Market Chef : Eric Joppie
Here at Chef Demo HQ, something we have a little trouble getting in touch with chefs (and they with us). In this hectic world, things happen. So this week, you’re getting your dose of Market Chef 411 in the raw, uncensored, straight interview form. Meet Eric Joppie, chef of Portland’s own fabulous Bar Avignon!
What role does food play in your life?
Food is the way I express affection for people. Sometimes I feel like a Jewish Grandmother. “Have you eaten yet?” is basically how I greet people. When my wife is sad, I offer to make her biscuits. When friends come over to eat they always know to expect plenty of good food. I’m not saying that I’m a totally one sided person, but it’s how I express myself creatively so that spills over into my all areas of my life
Sounds like to be your friend is to be well-fed. What do you like to make for people?
I usually take a poll and whatever people want is what they get, especially on special occasions. I recently made a cassoulet for my father in law on a family vacation. Basically I’m easy about what I cook, I just like to know that whatever it is will really make them happy. If I’m just cooking for myself, I eat simply, comfort food mostly. A lot of bread and egg-based dishes; breakfast tacos, frittatas, benedicts, that kind of stuff. Super easy and so satisfying.
Tell me a little about your background, where you grew up?
My childhood was happy, but kind of unremarkable. I was born in Phoenix and grew up in sort of nice, cookie-cutter sort of suburb of San Antonio,TX. When I was a junior at UT Austin, I dropped out and decided to attend the California Culinary Academy. I’d been studying business because I always thought that’s what my dad and all “real adults” did. Food was a natural fit for me though, and I obviously am glad I pursued it, however, if I knew then what I know now I definitely would NOT have gone to culinary school. I had had good jobs working for talented chefs, I should have just continued with that and learned on the job.
What came after Culinary school?
After I finished my externship in London I went on a long trip through France, Spain, and Morocco. I was still a really young cook with a predominantly American palate who had never left the states. That period of my life was really heady. I ended up in Portland because when I got married last December my wife and I decided settle down a bit and start thinking about kids. We’re excited to be here, and I’m really finally getting comfortable at Bar Avignon. They’ve really given me free reign over the menu. I love our small plates approach, it opens up a lot of possibilities.
And would you mind sharing a recipe?
I love making pickles and my favorite part of a bloody mary is the “salad”. This recipe works great for green beans or okra also. Enjoy!
Bloody Mary Asparagus Pickles
In my opinion, the most important component to a Bloody Mary, after the vodka, is the garnish (or the “Salad”). This is a fantastic component to that salad, which may also include celery, olives, pickled green beans, pickled pearl onions… the variations are endless. Even if you aren’t drinking Bloody Mary’s these pickles are great because they taste like a Bloody Mary! And you can substitute green beans, okra, or celery for the asparagus with great results.
2 bunches asparagus, tough ends snapped off
2 cups red wine vinegar
1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
12 oz. (1 can) V8 juice
½ cup worchestershire sc.
2 Tablespoons pickling spice
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 serrano chiles, sliced
12 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
Put picked asparagus in a nonreactive container. Bring everything else to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Bring to a boil again and strain the liquid into the container of asparagus. Discard the spices. Allow the asparagus to cool to room temperature, making sure that they stay submerged in the brine so they pickle evenly. When cool, cover and refrigerate. These are ready immediately, but will be better after 3-4 days. They will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, but be sure to use a clean utensil to remove them from the brine, as dirty hands can introduce bacteria and cause them to spoil.