A good chef has to be many things at once: skilled craftsperson, detailed technician, talented designer. The list is long. A great chef is only one thing: an artist. For the truly transcendent chefs, cooking is an all-consuming passion. They fight to figure out each dish, just like Hemingway wrestled with sentences or Georgia O’Keeffe battled the empty canvas.
Chef Trent Pierce isn’t interested in being good. The man is chasing greatness. This tireless pursuit is evident in every plate he presents at his hidden Portland restaurant, Roe. The technique, the craft, and the eye for plating are all in evidence, of course — but they conspire toward something bigger. Art.
“Obsession is a borderline negative term,” Pierce says with a laugh. “But I come from a competitive family where everyone wanted to push themselves.”
In this episode of HUMAN, we peek inside Chef Pierce’s kitchen and explore what makes him tick, why he longs to be the best, and what keeps him pushing forward. The quest for greatness is a difficult one, but if the chef’s recent James Beard Award nomination offers any indication, Trent Pierce is on the right track.
The following is from our interview with Chef Trent Pierce…
No one really knew what to expect from us at Roe — other than that they were getting seafood. People came in assuming it would be cioppino and fish and chips; they left saying ‘I didn’t know fish could be like this.’
Most people are used to fish that’s been out of the water for seven to 10 days before it even gets to the restaurant. We’re bringing in the very best product there is and then applying the proper seasoning and solid technique. That’s really all it takes.
I’m very mindful about how to treat products. Seafood is one of those things that doesn’t get treated too well very often and it’s something that I’ve had a talent for… so that’s become the niche and path for me.
We’ll never be a seven-day-a-week restaurant, we just aren’t built for that. We want to be more special — we want it to feel like a rare experience. That helps me get some balance. But on the days I’m cooking, I’m putting in long hours with complete focus.
You never know what will spark an idea. Sometimes I’m thinking of a casual dish I had where maybe I can combine the same flavors in an elevated way. Other times it’s a single ingredient. Or maybe I’m just thinking about movie popcorn and that sends me off in a new direction.
To learn more about Toyota’s tireless pursuit of perfection, please make sure to check out the All-New 2016 Prius.