Superstar k.d. lang on Portland's Food and Weather

The Grammy-award winning sensation (and new Portlander) sat down with us to chat nosh, rain, and her upcoming benefit dinner with Irving Street Kitchen's Sarah Schafer.

By Allison Jones October 3, 2012

k.d. lang hasn't spent a whole lot of time in her new city, what with international touring schedules and all, but she hasn't wasted any of the days she has spent in Portland.

In between her explorations of her new Pearl District neighborhood and the culinary offerings of Bridgetown, the award-winning singer has found time to collaborate with chef Sarah Schafer of Irving Street Kitchen on a massive No Kid Hungry benefit dinner for Share Our Strength.

Schafer began her work with Share Our Strength as a cook at New York's Gramercy Tavern over fifteen years ago, when Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio invited her to volunteer for a benefit dinner prepared by the likes of Jean Louis Palladin, Eberhard Muller, and Françoise Payard. Her work with the organization followed her upon her move to Eleven Madison Park, where she joined forces with überchefs Thomas Keller, Chris Schlesinger, Todd English, and Marcus Samuelson to raise funds to end childhood hunger.

When she moved to PDX to helm Irving Street Kitchen, Share Our Strength convinced her to be the local advocate for the cause. Oregon tops the most recent Department of Agriculture study as the state with the nation's highest rate of child food insecurity, a cause close to the heart of many Portland chefs, and one that can draw big-ticket names to make benefit events successful.

A fan of Irving Street Kitchen from her first days in town, k.d. lang jumped at the chance to be a part of Schafer's No Kid Hungry dinner. In addition to lang and Schafer, the October 15th event will bring together guest chefs from Portland and beyond, including Jason French of Ned Ludd, Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill in NYC, Sean Coyne of Grand Central Bakery, and Vernon Morales of San Francisco's Anchor & Hope.

I sat down with lang and Schafer to chat about the organization working to end childhood hunger, the singer's take on our food scene, and her feelings about the upcoming months of rain.

What makes you so passionate about this particular organization?

Sarah Schafer: The great thing about Share Our Strength is that it isn't just about feeding kids, it's about teaching them how to eat, and teaching their families how to feed them nutritious meals. They work with a wide network of locally-based food banks and outreach organizations to get inside of the communities most affected by hunger, and they have a pool of chefs that will go out to neighborhoods and teach kids and families how to cook. It's not about one chef or one organization, it's about getting people together for the cause.

k.d. lang: It's there in the name--Share our Strength.

How did you get such a great line-up of chefs to come to Portland for a night?

Sarah Schafer: I've moved around so much and have worked with a bunch of great people, so I can call them up and get them to come out to Portland. I know who's not busy on a given night and can get them to do the right thing. The truth is, I've been to a lot of charity functions where the food is boring. I like bringing together different chefs with different cuisines, along with great entertainment, to give people a real reason to get together. 

k.d. lang: Benefits are a bridge to so many aspects of the community, bringing together leaders in a bunch of different fields, so when they are successful they do much more than raise money, they make lasting connections.

Was the Portland food scene one of the things that drew you to move here?

k.d. lang: I find that when a city has a good culinary scene, it's an indicator that the rest of the cultural aspects of the city are in check. Food is a bastion for people with a certain open-mindedness and cultural curiosity. It's especially true in Portland--there's haute cuisine, but there's also a real deep desire to be locally-driven, culturally aware, and historical. I think Portland is a compass pointing towards where the world's attitude towards food needs to go.

Are you planning on spending more time at home soon?

k.d. lang: I'll be in and out for the rest of the year, but I'm looking forward to winter here, letting the rain put me into a creative zone and allow me to hunker down. I lived in L.A. for 21 years, and the sunshine can be lulling...putting you into a mono-emotional state, so I'm excited to see how the city changes with the weather. Does it snow here?

Sarah Schafer: Yes.

k.d. lang: A lot?

Sarah Schafer: No.

k.d. lang: Good. Growing up in Northern Alberta, I had my fill of snow. But I've noticed an awful lot of ph? spots here, so people must need a place to huddle over a hot bowl of soup. I'm prepared.

For more information about the No Kid Hungry dinner, which is almost sold out, head to the Share Our Strength Website.

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