Best Job in Portland.

Anyone who has visited me at Kitchen Cru more than likely now struggles with a deep seeded jealously. At the very least; they leave puzzled by my insistent smile, and my inability to explain what it is exactly that I do. The actual physical work includes such glorious and noble tasks as compost bin scrubbing, towel folding, and applying the occasional “How’s Your Father?” to various kitchen equipment. Truth be told, these everyday kitchen tasks seem few and far between over a forty hour week. That’s right, I said 40 hour week. Jealous yet, cooks? Did I mention vacation? Sick days? I had to look that last one up!

I remember when I was first coming up in kitchens, on the fringe of an era where Chef’s still hit their cooks. Part of the dogma back then used the term ‘Forty Hour Man’ as a dis for the uncommitted, the cooks who didn’t let “The Life’ rule their lives. Many of those early ideas have left me wanting, constantly striving to reach a balance between inside and outside, career vs. life. What I wanted from a kitchen and what I felt was “owed” them. I’ve come to realize, I have zero fucks to give for kitchen dogma. I mean sure, there are certain things to which I subscribe. I can’t deny that my personal spirituality, my ‘religion’ is balls deep in kitchen concepts, the catch phrases that repeat in my head as I stalk and hover around the kitchen. “Behind You” can mean ‘Get out of the way,’ and ‘Ive got your back’ in the same breath. Mise en place IS my religion, not to get all Bourdain on you. And if it did come down to taking sides, you know where I stand. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend 60-70 hour weeks breaking my back to make 35 K a year. It’s just not sustainable. That’s why I feel this kitchen was basically designed for me to run.

At Kitchen Cru no two days are the same. One day I’ll witness thousands of vegan pastries spring into existence; the sweet smells mingling with that of caramel smelling smoke from ham hocks; tight like apples. Across the kitchen a tasting at the counter sports smiles and it’s own crisp odors, and beyond, PIES!! Another day you might find a little whole animal butchery going on, a pig, lamb, or deer. And of course, yes; there is tentop. My infrequent posts to this blog are testament to my busyness with that project. I’ve gotten to cook with my baby again, too. Which has been nice, to say the least. Even taught a class with her. The event space will keep a kitchen manager busy as well, wine dinners and market places and beer tastings and what have you. In spite of being at a nexus of all things culinary, it’s another aspect of the job that truly satisfies: the community. This kitchen draws the best people, so much talent has passed through these doors in only eight months. I’ve learned so much, just from being there. ‘The right place at the right time’ has never rang more true to me. You probably can see through all this nonsense, my wack attempts at waxing poetic. The truth of the matter is that the constant shwag supply chain that I am at the end of. From the numerous “Can you taste this?” requests to the beloved “Want this?” as various cuts of fresh animal or boxes of produce are thrust upon me. I’m a fat ass, it’s widely known. My faithful readers know that mama never taught me how to say no to food. I should mention as well that a HUGE part of my love of KitchenCru has to do with my employer, Michael Madigan (pictured above.) I don’t want to get to into the details, he’ll give me shit about vying for a raise. Suffice to say he takes care of me, and he’s a blast to work with.

6 Responses

  1. Michael M said on 8 Dec 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I’ve told you this before: KitchenCru wouldn’t be what it is without you as part of it. It makes me happy that you are as stoked about this place as you are. Don’t know what surprises we’ll have next year, but I know we’ll continue to have a blast and invent new shit as we go.

  2. Sarah Kanabay said on 8 Dec 2011 at 2:23 pm


    big love to you two dudes, and your ladies, and all that you do.

  3. Neil said on 8 Dec 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Well stated Mister McCarthy. Well stated.

  4. mrjeffmccarthy said on 9 Dec 2011 at 2:33 pm

    @Michael M Thanks, jefe, I’m looking forward to it!
    @Sarah Kanabay-Thanks, girl, kiss kiss hug hug
    @Neil_ thanks buddy

  5. Michelle Vernier said on 12 Dec 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Hello Jeff - I’m sure you don’t remember me but we did meet at an even a few years ago. I was formerly the pastry chef at Wildwood and am now embarking on a new project of making handmade pasta to sell at the Montavilla Farmers Market, which will start in January. Anyways, I’d love to rent space at KitchenCru but have not been able to get in touch with anyone there through phone or email. Any suggestions? Is there space available to rent? If you have a chance to hook me up with more info my email is Thanks!

  6. mrjeffmccarthy said on 13 Dec 2011 at 12:50 pm

    @Michelle- Of course I remember you! It’s nice to hear from you and about about your new project. We’d love to have you come down and check out the kitchen. I apologize that you haven’t been able to connect with anyone form down here thus far. I’ll shoot you an email and we can get it figured out.

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