Chef shuffle

Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker departs Foster Burger

Asian street food guru ready to launch new Japanese drinking vinegar company

By Karen Brooks September 27, 2010

A Foster Burger with all the trimmings. The meat goes on!

Hot off the griddle: Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker has relinquished his partnership stake at Foster Burger, the popular joint he opened last December with high-end chef Daniel Mondok and ChefStable, an innovative restaurant development company owned by business savvy Kurt Huffman.

Ricker plans to concentrate on his growing Southeast Asian street food empire as well as Naam Som, a new company formed to market his adventurous homemade drinking vinegars. Ricker introduced Portland to the distinctive sweet-tart vinegars, popular in Japan and found (if you hunt for them) at some local Asian markets. Then he went the distance, making his own, to be mixed with ice and soda water in irresistible food-friendly drinks. Ricker’s repertoire of fresh-made flavors is already impressive, from plum to fig, making drinking vinegars mandatory sipping at Pok Pok, Ping and Whiskey Soda Lounge.

ChefStable is now the sole owner of Foster Burger. Mondok, bought out last spring, is currently sous chef at the bustling new June on East Burnside. Though Ricker instigated the move, he says no bad blood was spilled with his Ping-partner Huffman. “My brain is only so big, and I was beginning to feel like I was spreading myself too thin,” says Ricker. “Our personal relationship is unscathed; our professional relationship is merely changing form. I have faith in Kurt to move Foster Burger forward and maintain the quality we worked so hard to achieve.”

Now that he’s running the show rather than offering business advice, Huffman is putting little fingerprints on the simple-but-high-quality neighborhood burger concept. The buns are now homemade (and the potato bun formula is similar to Gruner, another ChefStable project and home to one of Portland’s most talked-about burgers). And pickles now have a bigger stage, arriving at tables in jars. “Same concept, with some refinements,” says Huffman. “Hand-ground burgers but now with our own organic buns. We just got a soft-serve machine. It’s everything Andy put in place, but with a couple tweaks.”

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