You cannot be a celebrity chef without having red-carpet-worthy hair. In Portland, that’s where Emmanuel Santana comes in. The 34-year-old’s three-chair salon in Goose Hollow sees a who’s who of the food world, lured by his versatile style and natural approach: Departure’s Gregory Gourdet, Le Pigeon’s Gabriel Rucker, and Smokehouse Tavern’s B.J. Smith, as well as chefs from Cooper’s Hall, Boke Bowl, and Dig A Pony.
In 1993, Santana sported the long shag of an Orlando skater kid—before a shear-happy barber lopped it off. Santana vowed to cut his own hair from then on, practicing on other kids’ domes and letting them pocket the $20s their parents had given them for haircuts. After moving to Portland in 2005 and working at Paul Mitchell, Santana started a line of aloes, butters, and infused oils and opened One Creativity and Design.
How did you cultivate your food-world clientele?
I got to know chefs when I was at Paul Mitchell, because a lot of them were were working downtown, and they’d come in for a haircut. Honestly, I liked cutting their hair because I’m drawn to creative people, because they have interesting things to talk about. Then I think word just spread.
Usually hair and food are a toxic mix . . .
Everything is interconnected. Portland’s chefs have made their way using ingredients from local purveyors. It’s simple: What we put in our bodies affects the health of our hair. The less we have to work with people on hair repair efforts, the more we can work on creative execution.
If you’re asking, “Why is my hair not growing optimally?” you should then ask, “What’s my exercising regimen? What am I eating?” If you use shampoo and then just spray a bunch of shit in it, don’t be surprised if you come down with a skin condition.... We’ll wash a client’s hair with a mixture of cider vinegar and water.
You’ve also started a video production company?
It’s fun. It allows us to travel and shop the brand at the same time. We don’t plan on expanding and we don’t really advertise. Your work should be your advertising. We’ve filmed ourselves cutting people’s hair in Hawaii, Austin, Colorado, Whistler, Vancouver, BC, Tulum, and Iceland. I’d like to fly to Chile and charter a boat to travel to Antarctica to cut hair there. That’s something I really wanna do.