Interview with Portland Rising Star Sustainability Chef Sunny Jin of Jory at the Allison Inn & Spa - Portland, OR

November 2011

Francoise Villeneuve: Describe the extent of your F & B operation.
Sunny Jin: I do all of the above and the bar! We cater to the spa and pool area, and offer picnic baskets for our guest to take with them to wineries.

FV: What's in the picnic basket?
SJ: We have a dozen seasonal items in the basket. We harvest things from the garden to go.

FV: What is the relationship between the hotel and dining rooms?
SJ:  A large portion of our dining guests are hotel guests, but we also get local guests from wineries. It’s about 30 percent hotel guests.

FV: What got you on the path to your culinary career?
SJ: It’s something I've always enjoyed doing. It was not exactly my first career choice.

FV: What was your first career choice?
SJ: I started going to school for forestry and management. Didn't like it. I used to cook at a country club for free golf, but wasn't serious about it.

FV:  How did you end up back here?
SJ: My wife and I loved the area when I was here for school. I remembered Oregon, the Willamette Valley—it was somewhere we could call home and establish ourselves.

FV:  Where did you attend culinary school? Do you recommend it?
SJ:  Western Culinary. It can open a lot of doors. For individuals, the best knowledge comes from staging for six months. Some of us care more for the degree and title.

FV: Who are some of your mentors? What did you learn from them?
SJ: Cory Lee and Thomas Keller. I learned everything from them from how to properly fold a towel and hold a spoon to how to baste a fish. They showed me how a professional kitchen operates.

FV: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
SJ: Above all, be passionate. If this isn't it, the fire will fizzle away. You have to find the love in peeling onions or slicing carrots.

FV:  What ingredient do you feel are underappreciated?
SJ: Salad greens. We take them for granted. We take a lot of pride in our greens. We built a relationship with a neighbor who built a cold frame. We looked though a seed catalog and tried all kinds of greens.

FV: Where do you like to go for culinary travel?
SJ: Japan.

FV: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
SJ: Above all, have fun. It ties everything together and llows you to focus more. Having fun opens your eyes to new ideas and a desire to be better. My number one rule for all new cooks is to have fun.

FV: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
SJ: We support our farmers as best we can. For the majority of our partnerships, I visit the facility to check on their philosophy and see how it aligns with ours. I need the piece of mind that I am sourcing the best.

FV:  What’s next? Where will we find you in five years?
SJ: In five years, I will be here. This is it, I've found home. I will be in the Willamette Valley. My ultimate goal is to own my own restaurant in the Valley. My priority now is to make Jory successful. I've been here a year and a half.