Spider Bites, Chef Shuffles, and 400-Ingredient Bread: Drama at Harvest at the Bindery
It’s been a rough few weeks for Harvest at the Bindery owner Jon Steuer. First, Chef Sean Sigmon—the mind behind Harvest’s signature spaghetti squash confit, Southern-style grits, and pulled trumpet mushroom BBQ—announced he’d be leaving the restaurant, leaving Steuer scrambling to find a new chef. Less than a week later, Steuer was bitten by a brown recluse spider at his home.
“It was really, really severe, and I was totally septic, and the infection was spreading through my body incredibly quickly,” Steuer says. “They cut a huge hole in me and went tunneling.” Doctors weren’t sure if Steuer would pull through—but after several surgeries, the punk rocker-turned-restaurateur appears to be on the long, slow, painful road to recovery.
Meanwhile, Harvest at the Bindery has been undergoing a Sean swap: Sigmon, who has helmed the Harvest kitchen since it opened in March 2015, will be replaced by Sean Coryell. Longtime herbivores may recognize Coryell as the creative force at Nutshell, one of Portland’s first vegan restaurants, which received solid reviews from Willamette Week and Portland Mercury before flaming out spectacularly in the 2008 recession.
After jumping ship at Nutshell, Coryell moved to Hawaii, where he worked on a rural avocado farm, cooked at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, lived in a shipping container, and founded a record label with Gonjasufi, among other pursuits. On April 5, Coryell was approached about the Harvest gig. By April 12, he had moved back to Portland, traveling straight from the airport to the Harvest kitchen.
Harvest will continue to focus on organic, plant-based foods, but Coryell’s feverishly ambitious equatorial fare is a far cry from Sigmon’s simple, rustic vegetable plates. “My food is farm-to-fork, but the farm might be behind a log cabin on Jupiter,” Coryell says. Over the next few weeks, he plans to replace Harvest’s current menu with one nearly identical to that of Nutshell circa 2007. Goodbye, roasted carrots. Hello, Nigerian bean cakes and Jamaican barbecue. And the bread—oh yes, the bread.
“My observations of veganism are that more ingredients means more nutrition, so I’ll be featuring a multi-hundred ingredient bread,” says Coryell. “I was up to 400 ingredients when I left Nutshell.” What goes into a 400-ingredient bread? Think dried flowers, wood bark, several salts, dozens of grains, and presumably the kitchen sink. (Sinks are vegan, right?)
We’ll be keeping an eye on Harvest as it continues to evolve over the next several weeks. As for Sigmon, he’ll be joining the crew at the Sudra’s new St. Johns outpost—which, by the way, opens in early May. So if you prefer poori to bark bread, hey, there’s an option for you.