2015 Seattle Rising Star Pastry Chef Clare Gordon of General Porpoise

2015 Seattle Rising Star Pastry Chef Clare Gordon of General Porpoise
November 2015

General Porpoise
1414 10th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122



Clare Gordon has seen the bare, exposed bones of the restaurant world: when she worked in the baking department at her father's restaurant (where Tim Healea was head baker), when she worked her way through bakeries and organic farms, and when she was helping to hold aloft a restaurant in trouble. No task too small, no challenge too big, no team not worth laying it all out on the line for—it's where she thrives. 

At just 25 (her birthday was in November), Gordon is the pastry chef overseeing Renee Erickson's Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise. But even at such a young age, she’s been through the ringer. In high school, she took a job at a bakery with Portland, Oregon Baker Tim Healea, and later at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, keeping up arduous bake shop work until she began traveling with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

With WWOOF, Gordon traveled to England (also Belgium, Italy, France, Spain) learning butchery and myriad food traditions. When she came home, she brought all that authenticity with her. It caught the attention of Josh McFadden of beloved Ava Gene’s, where Gordon earned formative experience. She moved to Seattle to work at Catalonia-inspired Aragona, and then took on the pastry program at middle eastern Mamnoon. A chameleon and minimalist with strong principles, Gordon is poised to make a deep pastry impact. 

Interview with Seattle Rising Star Pastry Chef Clare Gordon of General Porpoise

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Clare Gordon:
In high school I worked in the baking department of my family's restaurant, where Tim Healea was head baker. He fostered my bread baking. Restaurant work is easier for me than bread baking, physically. I don't love bakery work. I respect it, but I can’t do it. The labor is crazy, and getting up early makes you crazy! Then I worked at Ken's Artisan Bakery for a while.

SK: You've also worked Ava Genes in Portland, Oregon. Tell me a little about that experience.
Ava Genes, at that time, was a perfect fit. Chef Joshua [McFadden] and I met and a talked about dessert and connected on basic Italian principles
that philospohy of using everything. They even love stale bread. He taught me that it was ok to be a minimalist, as with a pannacotta. I developed my style at Ava Genes with Joshua, with that cuisine we loved so much.

Then I moved to a bakery they opened called Roman Candle, helping with production while still working at Ava Genes. I stuck it out for the opening, but Portland needed a pastry chef, so I started interviewing.

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community here in Seattle?
I don't think Seattle is too different from Portland. Seattle is a very small city. You see a lot of the same people. If you work well with people, you can make friends really fast. But it's not as collaborative as Portland. The bottom line is higher, so chefs look out for themselves a little bit more. It's still a close knit community, though.

SK: Can you describe your style?
I like to take something super traditional and adapt it to be seasonal and to an aesthetic relevant to the dining scene and Seattle’s palette. Or we can take a modern technique like shaving ice and use a tradtional aesthetic specific to a certain cuisine. Creating your own brand is tough, but also the fun part. The Northwest is really fun with all the incredible ingredients.

SK: You've traveled a lot. Is there anywhere you'd like to go next?
I'd love to go back to Italy and France. I've never been to Asia, so I would love to go there, especially Thailand. I'd love to try all their street food and taste all those fun and spicy flavors that we don't really have access to.

SK: What's your favorite kitchen tool, and what tool do you wish you had?
A pairing knife. It does a lot more than its supposed to, and mine hasn’t broken yet. I would be really nice to have a Carpigiani ice cream maker.

SK: What do the next five years have in store for you?
I don't see myself crossing into savory until I have my own place, but I want to. I love cooking simple awesome food that's comforting and highlights ingredients over anything. I'd also like to try and make more bread. 

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