Vitaly Paley’s rustic downtown dining room has a new leader come next week. With chef Ben Bettinger departing for Laurelhurst Market, sous chef Doug Adams is stepping into the chef de cuisine position, bringing the promise of bright, balanced cooking and, perhaps, some Southern soul.
The Texas native draws raves from his former boss, Ox's Greg Denton, with whom Adams cooked at Metrovino before heading to Paley’s Place and, later, Imperial. Paley himself is equally impressed with the 29-year-old’s drive and culinary vision. “I’ve done a pretty decent job of recognizing talent through the years and giving them a good start,” says Paley, whose past employees include Gabe Rucker and Jason Barwikowski. “I feel very passionate about Doug—the spark in his eye, his determination, and his ‘I can do this’ attitude,” he says.
In terms of taste, Paley lauds Adams’ balanced approach to rustic cooking, be it on the wood fired grill or plancha: “He’s got a synergy of sweet, salty, and sour. Whenever he has me taste something it always jumps and sparks go off in your mouth. It’s cool.”
The chef says that Imperial’s mandate for “simple food, done well,” isn’t changing, but Adams does bring a love of fresh market produce and a Southern twang to the table. Paley sites Adams’ beer-braised, smoked pork sandwich special at Portland Penny Diner as one of the best pulled pork he’s ever had and nods to Imperial’s Texas-fried rabbit as a dish indicative of his style.
“You will hear about this kid a lot more,” Paley says, the pride evident in his voice. “I guarantee it.”
A bonus bite: Adams is only one of a new crop of interconnected chefs moving up in the local food world. Le Pigeon just announced that it’s promoting Andrew Mace, the Montana-born modernist who runs the well-regarded Limited Company pop up with Le Pigeon pastry chef Nora Antene, to sous chef, under Gabe Rucker. As PoMo reported as part of its “Next Top Chefs” story last year, lore has it that Mace landed in Portland permanently after his Subaru Outback broke down en route from Montana to San Francisco. Who was the friend that Mace crashed with during that fateful Stumptown pit stop? None other than his college buddy, Imperial’s Doug Adams.
Taste test chef Doug Adams’ Imperial cooking at
Portland Monthly’s Endless Summer BBQ next month.
Saturday, Aug 9 at Zidell Yards