Leather Storrs  doesn’t mince words. The Oregon born chef has always been willing to tell you exactly what he thinks, whether he’s talking a mile a minute about crummy wine bar food or waxing ecstatic on fish sauce. The Noble Rot kitchen maestro celebrates the 10th anniversary of the very wonderful wine bar his wife Courtney Storrs and her partner Kimberly Bernosky first opened behind a roll up garage door off East 28th Avenue a decade ago; the spot where, as chef, he helped most of Portland fall in love with rustic, seasonal, small plate cuisine.

After opening (and shuttering) his own restaurant, Leather returned to Noble Rot in 2008 (now located on top of a green building on East Burnside), helping plan and tend to the restaurant’s 3,000 square foot roof garden in the process. Now the restaurant harvests everything from its own herbs to carrots and, coming soon: honey. “We just put beehives on the roof. They’ve only up there for a week and a half,” he says, excitedly. “Four months from now we’ll have honey….at least I hope so.”

He kicks off Plate & Pitchfork’s 2012 season with a dinner at Champoeg Farm on Saturday, June 30 with Chef Henry Kibit, Patton Valley Vineyards and Imbue Vermouth. In the meantime, he’s celebrating his own restaurant’s anniversary with a big party on Sunday, May 6, featuring a dozen wineries and live blues from Courtney’s brothers. “I might even dust off the pipes,” he warns. “My go to song is ‘Brandy.’”


How did you end up cooking at your present restaurant/kitchen? I warned my wife [Courtney Storrs]  and her partner [Kimberley Bernosky] not to open another wine bar with shriveled olives, gray charcuterie and crummy food. She said: “Great, you do the cooking.”

What’s the first food you remember loving as a kid? Ice cream we would churn in the summer. Peach and blackberry were my favorites.

What edibles are you growing in your own garden? We grow or have grown almost anything on the roof at Noble Rot. Strawberries, radishes, peas, little mustards and carrots are what I’m geeky about now.

What’s your most trusted piece of kitchen equipment? Why? I love my knives, of course, but I also lean heavily on three other tools: a microplane, the Thermapen digital probe and the mighty chinois. The most trusted? My Fred Flintstone mitts.

What’s you most disturbing guilty pleasure food? Ice cream is tops, I’m a big Apple Jacks fan and I love any chip that ends in “os” or “oes.”

Most tried and true hangover cure? Grease, caffeine and salt, in that order.

Favorite band or artist to listen to while cooking? Even though it’s a little bed wetty, I’m gonna admit to Ben Folds.

Noble Rot's spectacular inner city roof garden.

Most disturbing kitchen-related injury…what happened? In California, I saw an intern bash her hand onto her chef knife to split a lobster. Her knife was upside-down. I couldn’t watch.

What would you eat for your last supper? A rib-eye, garlic fries and a huge salad.

What vegetable or fruit deserves more respect and love in your opinion? I carry a torch for shallots, rhubarb and kale.

Why are you cooking at Plate & Pitchfork this year? [P&P creator] Erika Polmar makes me do it, she pretends like it’s my choice.

Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a chef I’d be… in advertising.”

Snap a quick photo of yourself with your favorite condiment right now. Tell us why you love it so. Right now we are smoking fish sauce. It smells like wool socks that were worn by a campfire then forgotten in a moist bag under your car seat. In small doses, this witches brew lends a weighty bass line where shiny flavors can really dance.


GO: Chef Leather Storrs kicks off Plate & Pitchfork’s 2012 season with a dinner at Champoeg Farm with Chef Henry Kibit, Patton Valley Vineyards and Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth. 5 pm Saturday, June 30. $125 per person. Details and reservations here.

Photos courtesy of leatherstorrs.com and noblerotpdx.com.