There’s a lot to like about Aaron Barnett. He’s the executive chef at the critically acclaimed Restaurant St. Jack here in Portland, OR. He was a semifinalist for this year’s James Beard Awards. He was named a Portland Rising Star Chef in 2011. If those accolades don’t spell it out clearly enough: his food is phenomenal.

I’ve eaten his food, I’ve read the reviews – it’s all good. He’s humble, quirky, and funny. He’s a great chef with a good attitude. And his food is really something special.

Needless to say, we’re pretty thrilled to have Chef Barnett cooking for a Plate & Pitchfork dinner – alongside Chris Israel, no less – at Smith Berry Barn on July 15th.

In order for you to get to know Aaron a bit better, we asked him a few silly questions. His answers made us laugh (a lot). They even made us cringe (a bit). And, who knew that Manwich and Capri Suns were such a big hit with the children of Canada? (I certainly did not.)

Read below to see Chef Aaron Barnett’s answers to our questionnaire…

1. How did you end up cooking at your present restaurant/kitchen? Persistence…and I sucked at Vet School!

2. What’s the first food you remember loving as a kid? Frog legs from Dubrovnik’s in Winnipeg. Oh, and of course, Manwich – which my dad had to bring back from work trips to the states. Manwich and Capri Suns made me the coolest 4th grader in Canada.

3. What edibles are you growing in your own home garden? My wife and I are both pretty busy but we do the usual stuff: tomatoes, baby carrots, various beans and peppers. It’s usually enough of a harvest for like, one big meal. Impressive huh?

4. What’s your most trusted piece of kitchen equipment? Why? My knife. I had the same one for 10 years, and decided to upgrade and just bought a nicer version of the same knife. It’s part of my hand.

5. What’s your most disturbing guilty pleasure food? Buffalo wings with tons of bleu cheese.

6. Most tried and true hangover cure? A big bowl of menudo.

7. Favorite band/artist to listen to while cooking? It changes daily. Anything from Radiohead to Lil’ Wayne to The Zombies…

8. Most disturbing kitchen-related injury…what happened? I once taught a kid to sear shortribs in a warped pan with a little too much oil. He tried to impress me by being “fast” and wound up dropping one and splashed smoking oil all over my right hand. My first reaction was to wipe the oil off on my apron, which was a bad idea… the skin wiped off too.

9. What would you eat for your last supper? White Alba truffle risotto from Lumiere circa 2003. Anything from Jiro Dreams of Sushi. #1 Special Pho from Pho Oregon.

10. What food/farm-related issue are you most passionate about or gets you really steamed? Poorly treated animals.

11. What vegetable or fruit deserves more respect/love in your opinion? Prunes! Everyone’s all up on plums’, but dry them out and you may as well be serving dog.

12. Why are you cooking at Plate & Pitchfork? It’s a lot of fun and it supports some good causes. Plus, I get to work with my friends.

13. Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a chef I’d be younger looking.”

14. What’s in your fridge at home? A lot of condiments, takeout containers, juice/beer/wine, a lime and a cucumber.


The Plate & Pitchfork dinner on July 15th featuring Chef Aaron Barnett is currently SOLD OUT. Never fear, there are still tickets available for a few select farm dinners (David Anderson of Genoa, Dustin Clark of Wildwood,  Daniel Mondok of Pauleé, and more!). We’d love to have you join us!

Photo courtesy of Restaurant St. Jack