2011 Portland Rising Star Community Chef Jenn Louis has a philosophy on food: “Keep it consistent, simple, and purposeful.” It’s an approach that has driven her culinary career to date, hand in hand with a healthy dose of moxie, and a deep sense of social responsibility. After graduating from Pitzer College in Los Angeles, Louis spent time traveling in Europe, North and South America, and South Africa. A thirst for adventure later drove her from the West Coast of the United States to the deep woods of North Carolina, then on to the Florida Keys and the Everglades.
During her U.S. adventures, Louis began cooking and instructing rehab courses in the wilderness with Outward Bound. She found herself more at home in the kitchen, but her love of working with not-for-profits never faded. Armed with a focus, Louis set about formalizing her training at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, working her way through Portland kitchens before landing a job at Wildwood Restaurant and Bar.
Working in restaurants kicked Louis’s inner entrepreneur into gear. In 2000, she opened a catering company called Culinary Artistry, and soon earned respect as a top Portland caterer. She built on this success in the summer of 2008 with the opening of Lincoln,and a menu that coaxes the freshest Pacific Northwest ingredients into hearty fare that takes its cue from the seasons. In spring 2011, Louis opened Sunshine Tavern with husband and partner David Welch. The neighborhood spot has kid-friendly bar food, unlimited Donkey Kong/Ms. Pac Man, and soft serve ice cream.
But even while juggling a catering company and two restaurants, Louis carves out time to teach cooking classes at a homeless youth shelter, work with the farmers market, help Growing Gardens provide working kitchen gardens for low income families, and participate in Janus Youth Programs, and Dining with Dignity. Not only that, her cuisine never flags; in 2010 and 2011 she was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best Chef Northwest.”