Even the shorthand version of Vitaly Paley's life sounds dramatic. Piano prodigy in his native Russia. Student at Juilliard in the U.S. Opts for the cooking life by switching to the French Culinary Institute. Top jobs at Union Square Cafe and Chanterelle. A year in France at two-Michelin-star Au Moulin de la Gorce. Then on to Portland, OR, to open Paley's Place, where he wins a James Beard Award for Best Chef/Northwest in 2005. That's where you'll find him and wife Kimberly today, still turning out exquisite French fare from the abundant local bounty.
Now that's a sandwich!
I keep it simple at home because I cook so much at the restaurant.
You'll need a big appetite to put something that size away.
No problem. I ride my bike 18-20 miles on most days.
Yes. I just step outside my door and take off. Rural farmlands are just a few minutes away.
What's your usual route?
Sounds like a sweet setup.
It's great exercise plus it gives me time alone to think. Some of my best specials have been thought up on these rides.
You must eat a big breakfast.
I do. You don't want to start a hard ride on an empty stomach.
What's your usual?
Decaf coffee—my doctor says no more caffeine—plus organic oatmeal with nuts, cranberries, raisins or another fruit.
You head to work after the ride?
That's a long day for the boss.
It's worth it. We get 9:30 reservations now, and Portland's a town where everyone wants to eat at 7. It took us a long time to get to this point.
Do you head home after service?
No. First I do office work, write new menus and manage the energy bar business. I'm my only employee for the bars.
Tell us about Paley Bars.
We're small, although we sell four varieties. I can tell you it's very difficult to get a packaged product into the national market.
Why? Your bars are tasty.
Good product is only part of it. You're up against guys with big marketing budgets, chain stores with lots of rules and regulations, and you meet a lot of people who want stuff for free for "promotional purposes."
So how are sales?
Locally and regionally, they're great. The bars are a funny business, though. Fifty cents makes a huge difference, whereas a few bucks either way doesn't matter that much at the restaurant.
Who manufactures your bars?
A co-packer here in Portland makes them from my recipes.
What's with these leftover brussels sprouts in your fridge?
We're testing recipes for the cookbook I'm writing for Ten Speed Press. The sprouts are from the Thanksgiving chapter.
Wow, you're a busy guy. Good luck with the bars and the book— and watch yourself on that bike!
- Paley Bars:
- Fruit Nut Evolution,
- Liquid Sunshine,
- Jam'n Peanuts,
- Paley's Comet
- Cougar Gold Cheese
- Genesis Raw Fruit Juices
- Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water
- Plain Nonfat Yogurt
- Sliced Turkey
- Creamed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon