2018 Portland Rising Star Chef Sam Smith of Tusk

2018 Portland Rising Star Chef Sam Smith of Tusk
March 2018

Moraga, California, native Sam Smith traded coasts for culinary school, earning his degree from the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia. During his studies, Smith interned back home at Oliveto Restaurant and Café, where he had eaten with his family when he was growing up. 

After graduation, he found a mentor in Rising Stars alum Michael Solomonov, who took Smith and Wesley Johnson (future chef de cuisine of Tusk) on a food tour of Israel before opening critically acclaimed Zahav. Smith grew enamored of Middle Eastern food and culture and cooked with Solomonov for three years, including a year at Zahav.

In 2012, Chef Joshua McFadden recruited Smith to join his team at Portland, Oregon’s Ava Gene’s, which quickly landed on Bon Appétit’s 2013 “Top 10 Best New Restaurants” list. After Ave Gene’s, Smith teamed up with Le Pigeon Pastry Chef Nora Antene to host pop-up LaMama at Peter Cho’s Han Oak. In August 2016, LaMama became Tusk and opened as the second concept from Rising Star Restaurateurs McFadden and Luke Dirks’ Submarine Hospitality. 

Tusk may be the bright and breezy house that hummus built, but the chickpea is merely a springboard into Smith’s nourishing Pacific Northwest-meets-Middle Eastern cuisine. Tusk was named 2017 “Restaurant of the Year” by Portland Monthly, and it’s only the first project to come from Smith, who’s working on a fast-casual concept for Portland and beyond.