Bite Club can cook a mean pork chop. Some call our pan gravy orgasmic. But we know better than to think we've got what it takes to command our own kitchen army. On the other hand, Paul Murphy, the talented chef of the brand-new Southeast Portland bistro Buckman Grill, seems destined to feed us.
This outdoorsy Montana butcher's son spent his formative years hunting and fishing, yet he has stayed inside, close to the stove, ever since he splashed down in Portland in 1995. Soon after graduating from the Western Culinary Institute, Murphy was rubbing elbows with some of the most lauded chefs in town. He worked at Pazzo under chef David Machado. In 1998 he followed Machado and chefs Paul Ornstein (Basilico) and Ronnie MacQuarrie to Southpark. Five years later he turned up in chef Vitaly Paley's kitchen, reveling in the local produce scene.
But after soaking up the Rose City's collective culinary smarts for a decade, the 27-year-old chef finally has a kitchen of his own in the small Southeast Portland joint that used to house William's on 12th. Partners Brett Meisner and local musician Seamus Egan have created Buckman Grill, a boisterous bar for grownups. Murphy calls it an "American Grill," a place where he can focus on his Montana roots.
We think the dark-wood-trimmed spot could shape up to be a baby version of Marco Shaw's Northeast charmer Fife. A neighborhood destination, that is, where pints of Stella Artois share table space with refined belly warmers like braised brussel sprouts, chicken-confit salad and gloriously sloppy barbecue beef short ribs.
We grilled Murphy on his culinary life experiences and fashioned this quiz to provide insight for all eaters who might dream of running their own hot box someday.
QUIZ DU CHEF
CHECK ALL THAT APPLY:
* You spent your summers building barbed-wire fences and herding sheep and cattle.
* You can gut, skin and quarter an elk in 45 minutes.
* You vowed to work in the restaurant industry after a chef gave you your first beer at age 14.
* With a high-heat pressure hose, you cleaned blood and gristle off the walls of your dad's meat department.
* You exhausted yourself working 90 hours a week as a WCI student, Jazz de Opus intern and Pazzo pantry chef.
* Your favorite class at WCI was "Garde Manger."
* Under the watchful eyes of Pazzo customers, a pan of smoking hot oil was dumped on your hand, peeling off several layers of skin.
* You want your own restaurant so you can finally put trout on the menu.
* You made friends with local farmers after your boss signed you up for a series of chef demos at the Portland Farmers Market.
* You think Southern, Creole and Cajun food are the only real American cuisines.
* You think all a chef needs to succeed are perseverance, dedication and a very large knife.
* You don't enter a kitchen without your own 12-inch Barcelona fish knife.
* Or your sous chef, Lorenzo Gonsalves.
* You cure meats to classical music and jazz. Coltrane works best for bacon.
1-4 Coach potato: Stick to nuking Healthy Choice entrees.
5-9 You can cater your cousin's wedding, but steer clear of management positions.
10-14 Move over, Greg Higgins, there's a new stove sheriff in town!
207 SE 12th Ave, 230-0945.