I'm With Her

Get to Know These 4 Standout Women in Portland's Culinary Scene

Food industry folks gush about some of their favorite local ladies.

By Karen Brooks and Kelly Clarke April 24, 2018 Published in the May 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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From left: Jessie Aron with Maya Lovelace, Maylin Chavez

We asked some of the city’s food movers and shakers to spotlight women in the local culinary scene who ought to be household names. They brought the love and then some.

Maya Lovelace of Mae (and upcoming restaurant Yonder):

Jessie Aron (formerly of Carte Blanche cart, opening Malka restaurant this summer) is my dear friend, a long-standing chef crush of mine, and a former Mae staffer. She has an amazing talent for finding a way to balance about a million flavors and textures and ingredients. My favorite dish of hers, crispy rice salad, showcases all that wild, unbridled creativity. Last time it included (among other things) fish sauce–glazed fried chicken, Honeycrisp apples, pickled ginger, strawberries, avocado, peanuts, makrut lime-seasoned cashews, toasted coconut, pickled peppers, and an aggressively bright lime dressing. It’s bonkers and, quite frankly, too much. Jessie is so full of magic that it all works. I crave it desperately all the time. Originality that strong is so difficult to come by, and I think she was born with it. She reminds me to cook with my heart and ignore everything else.”

Kelly Myers, chef/co-owner of Xico:

Maylin Chavez (chef/owner of Olympia Oyster Bar) is doing some of the things that are so exciting in Mexican food right now, especially in Baja: combining Mexican flavors and techniques with ingredients and cuisines from other parts of the world. The dish I keep thinking about is her seared, head-on, shell-on Gulf shrimp. The shell is there to intensify the flavors; the dish actually has a light texture. After she sears it, she tosses the shrimp with chimichurri, chile arbol, and Old Bay. I feel that sense of trust at Olympia Oyster Bar—that I’m going to experience a range of flavors and I’m going to like all of them.”

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From left: Sarah Marshall, Michelle Cairo

Cristina Baez of Ataula & the Nightwood Society:

“I cannot get enough of Sarah Marshall’s Marshall’s Haute Sauces. The flavors are well-developed and consistent, simply delicious, and they add the right amount of heat to any dish. (For me, the must-have is a tie between Habanero Curry and the Serrano Haute sauces!) Sarah is extremely talented and has an incredible palate, but what sets her apart is her sincerity and love for her community. She is an example of a working woman who does it all, and does it well.”

Kim Malek, president & CEO of Salt & Straw:

“Salt & Straw partnered with Olympia Provisions on our first collaborations in Portland (Melon and Prosciutto and Brown Ale Bacon ice creams), so that’s how I first met Michelle Cairo (co-owner of Olympia Provisions). When she speaks, people really listen. She clearly leads and makes decisions based on her uncompromised values when it comes to both her people and her product. She’s what businesses could and should be about. I adore her. (Also, she recently introduced me to Olympia Provisions SE’s shrimp & mussel stew over lunch. I was basically licking the bowl because it was so delicious.)”

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