Ken Forkish, arguably the most talented baker in town, is officially hanging up his pizza peel.
The founder of Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Ken’s Artisan Bakery announced that he is retiring in a subscriber newsletter that was emailed Dec. 31. The news was first reported by Portland Food + Drink, which quoted Forkish as saying it was time to step back from work now that he’s in his 60s.
Fans of Forkish’s wood-fired pies and freshly baked breads, croissants and cookies need not worry that his departure from the city’s food scene means that his now-iconic restaurant and bakery will shutter. A Jan. 3 Instagram post on the Ken’s Artisan account stated that a small group of longtime employees had purchased both businesses.
General manager Theo Taylor and pastry chef Randy Dorkin, who have a combined 33 years of experience at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, will take over that location. Ken’s Artisan Pizza is now in the hands of Peter Kost, Forkish’s restaurant colleague of 20 years.
“This is a natural progression and means there will be continuity at the bakery and pizzeria,” the social media post read. “Our guests can expect the same quality in product and warmth in service.”
Even though he’s entering retirement, Forkish won’t disappear completely. He will remain available to the businesses, as needed, in a consulting role. His retirement announcement follows several other high-profile departures in the industry.
At the end of Thanksgiving weekend last year, Vitaly and Kimberly Paley bowed out from Paley’s Place on Northwest 21st Avenue following over two decades of service. And in spring 2020, David Machado ended his 40-year career as a restaurateur after the pandemic forced the closure of all five of his restaurants, including Altabira and Nel Centro.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza helped reshape the city’s pizza scene when it opened on Southeast 28th Avenue in 2006, regularly appearing in WW’s restaurant guides as one of the top spots in the city to order pies with a perfect char.
And while many came for the pizza, they were delightfully surprised by and returned for the sides. Forkish used his igloo-shaped oven to beautifully char not just dough, but everything from seasonal vegetables to sweet peach-and-pork salads.
Fortunately, none of that should change. Forkish says the new owner has no plans to change the recipes or day-to-day operations. You can taste for yourself once Ken’s Artisan Pizza reopens Jan. 4 following a holiday break.