Market Chef : Tim Daly

October 20, 2011 |  by  |  Chef Demos
Tim Daly is a tough guy to pin down. It was a feat of miraculous proportions when at last I caught him on the phone for our interview, and it was at once thrilling, and frightening – I kept half expecting to get dead air on the other end when I asked a question. The longer we talked the more clear it became that while food is truly one of Tim’s passions – he has been in the business for more that thirty years not – he is a person who is constantly seeking the new, unknown, a challenge. “It drives people who know me crazy – my wife especially – I need to have a lot going on all at once. I was that kid in school who was always getting yelled at for wandering around the classroom. I just get bored really easily.”At first, in light of this, I puzzled over how the restaurant world managed to hold Daly’s attention for this long – food, just food, for 30 years? But the more I thought, the more I realized that in many ways the food world is a perfect place for him, and more specifically, the rich worlds of cheese and beer and wine that are celebrated over at Southeast Portlands’ temple of milk-aliciousness, Cheese Bar. Daly is the chef – although he preferred not to be called that exactly, since it is important to him that the menu is a collaborative process – of the small plates area of the multi-tasking, cheese lovers paradise. One can stop by Cheese Bar on the way home, pick a cheese or five out of the roughly 200 that they carry, to have with (or for) dinner, or you can pull up a seat in the more restaurant-y side of things and order something from Daly’s menu of cheese-and-charcuterie-centric treats.

A Portland food scene veteran, Daly has a worked in great places all over town. Fresh out of culinary school,  Daly was on the opening crew at Wildwood, a job that held his attention for 3 years and which  he calls “one of the best jobs I’ve ever had”. It was a particularly exciting moment in the life of Oregon’s food culture, and as he explains it; “It was a such a cool time in that everyone who opened the restaurant had all moved to Portland from other places specifically to work at Wildwood,  so we sort of bonded over that.” After that, he went to Red Star Tavern in downtown Portland, helping to get that restaurant up and running, eventually taking over on the sweet side of things, working as the pastry chef for 3 years. That was followed by a little time behind the scenes at Provvista as then as a butcher at the dear departed Nature’s. Eventually he made a move south to Silverton, where he lives now with his wife and daughter. After some work in Salem at the terrific J.James and it’s sister restaurant, Wild Pear, Daly decided it was time to take some time off to raise his daughter.

Lucky for us, and for Steve Jones – as in what used to be Steve’s Cheese but is now morphed in to Cheese Bar – about seven years ago, Daly felt ready to jump back into the world of food. He met Jones at an industry event back when he was just getting ready to open Steve’s Cheese. Jones was looking for a little help with the shop and it just so happened Daly was ready and willing. “I’ve always loved cheese, but I didn’t really know how much I loved cheese until I started working for Steve. With subjects like cheese or wine or beer, they’re so vast, you can come at them from so many angles – the historical angle, the agricultural angle, craftsmanship angle – so I don’t think I’ll ever grow bored with it. I find them so exciting because they’re so tradition-oriented, but then there are people who are out there making cheese or wine today and totally changing the game.”

And the most pressing question of all – does he have a favorite cheese?  “Ooooh, man. Ok that’s tough. Well there are two answers. For nostalgia reasons, I’ll say Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, aged for at least a year, served with a warm slice of homemade apple pie, preferably. Secondly, something I fell in love with more recently; a category of cheese from Piedmont called Robiola. In Piedmont almost every farm makes one. Farmers use all kinds  of milk, cow, sheep, etc. They’re soft and mild, aged no more than a month, and so they really really express the milk itself, the animal, seasonality. I have a vivid imagination and so I tell people that they’re like a very inexpensive trip to Utaly because you can taste the fresh grass in the Spring time, the mountain air, the sunshine. They’re simple and perfect.”  We’re sold – by which I mean drooling – how about you?

Come see Tim and his mad kitchen skill this Sunday at the Montavilla Market!



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