At Paley’s Place, Chef Patrick McKee Out; a Franco-Russian Revolution On Deck

As his executive chef readies to leave, James Beard-toting Vitaly Paley plans the next chapter for his iconic, 20-year-old Portland restaurant.

By Kelly Clarke December 8, 2014

Paley's Place chefs and collaborators Patrick McKee and Vitaly Paley.

Eat Beat has learned that Paley’s Place executive chef Patrick McKee, who took over the reins at Vitaly Paley’s mothership in 2012, will leave the storied Northwest Portland restaurant by the first of the year.

Like many Paley protégées, Le Pigeon’s Gabriel Rucker to current Top Chef contender Doug Adams, McKee was a Paley’s long-timer; working his way up from line cook to executive chef over the course of a decade. “We’ve had an amazing run together,” says Paley, who confirms it’s an amicable split. “His loyalty was unparalleled all these days.”

McKee is keeping tight-lipped on what his next project will be, but does confirm he’ll be running a Portland kitchen. “Vitaly is my mentor and a friend,” he says. “But it was time to move on.”

The departure cracks open the door for a refreshed Paley’s Place that may take a few cues from Paley’s innovative new Russkie pop-up DaNet (housed monthly at the Belarus-born chef’s Portland Penny Diner/Imperial complex downtown). Paley won’t divulge dish details, but come January, the Paley’s Place menu will debut a handful of old world French-Russian plates dating back to the days of Peter the Great. He’s excited, and, given the tables filled with delighted eaters as DaNet, local diners are hungry for more Russian cooking. Who knows where the bold move could lead the respected kitchen. “I have a lot of ideas I’m experimenting with,” Paley muses. “Once or twice a month (at DaNet) is no longer enough. I’d like to bring some of that past forward into the future.”

As for staffing, Paley will promote from within; raising 15-year Paley’s kitchen vet Luis Cabanas to chef de cusine, a move Paley says recognizes the steadfast chef’s considerable creative contributions over the past years. The pair will work side-by-side to get the kitchen wired in to the Franco-Russian flourishes in the coming months.

“Everything has a turn, that’s kind of how I see things. I’ve been doing this close to 20 years in Portland, and the only constant is me and [my wife/co-owner] Kimberly,” Paley laughs. “That’s good. Change is good.”


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