Chef, Restaurateur & Cookbook Author
Cory Schreiber opened the Wildwood Restaurant & Bar (Portland, Oregon) in 1984 after a ten year odyssey working with well-known restaurateurs and master chefs in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. He returned to his native Oregon to combine lessons learned with his own approach of emphasizing sustainably-grown produce of the Pacific Northwest prepared with a simplicity that shows off the beauty and flavorful bounty of this region. The title phrase of his cookbook sums up his style perfectly, Cooking from the Source. “My influences have all been American, starting with my family,” he says. “I don’t want to get muddled in ‘eclectic this’ or ‘eclectic that’ – I want to keep it straight-forward and simple.”
The Schreiber family has been involved in the Pacific Northwest oyster industry since the mid-1800s. At the age of eleven, Cory really started his restaurant career at the family’s seafood eatery – a direct descendant of the family’s oyster business and a Portland landmark for generations. “When I opened the Wildwood it was, for me, a return to the land that I had known as a child. It was the beginning of a commitment to the amazing farmers, cheese makers and wine masters of the Pacific Northwest.” The dishes of the Wildwood reflect these local allegiances and celebrate each harvest in a presentation that is about the ingredients, not the chef who combines them.
“At the Wildwood the food is hearty and down-to-earth. The complexity of our dishes comes from the depth of flavor found in each ingredient,” the award-winning chef explained. “Our weekly-changing menus are based on the wealth of premium fresh bounty found only miles from the restaurant in the lush Willamette Valley, coastal mountain ranges and diversified farmlands of Oregon and Washington.”
The local farmers who supply this fine eatery with its fresh fruits and veggies are as much a part of the restaurant’s team as the servers, wine buyer or sous chef. Cory is keenly aware of the layers within each season that trigger various harvests; his menu is adjusted weekly to mirror whatever is being picked, at its peak of flavor and availability. While the ingredients of any dish can certainly be duplicated, this direct relationship of farm-to-chef brings an optimum flavor to the Wildwood table that is lost in the time and distance practiced by most restaurant supply systems.
The leaf lettuces, for instance, that were presented when the writer visited this establishment were grown by a woman in nearby Camby (OR) who knocked on the kitchen door, so to speak, several seasons ago with a few heads of specialty lettuces that had head-turning taste. So she was encouraged to grow what she grows best and the Wildwood supports those efforts by paying a premium to match the quality and freshness that Cory and his staff require. Over the years, Cory has developed a network of these kind of small, quality-oriented producers who he can rely on for fresh items at specific times of the year and, likewise, these small growers can rely on support from the Wildwood. The dependency is symbiotic – the restaurant survives because of these intimate relationships with small growers in the immediate area – those small operations are able to survive only because of the loyalty and support of restaurateurs like Cory Schreiber.
“We do not tell our suppliers what to grow or when we could use their crops; we would rather give them the freedom to do what they do best and mold our menu offerings to reflect our suppliers” he said when asked if he gets involved in the crop plan of any of his suppliers. “The growers we work with have been supplying the restaurant for several seasons; they know what we expect and, in turn, know what to expect from us as far as volume. I only encourage them to grow what they are comfortable growing well.”
This list of First Courses that appears on a typical late summer dinner menu demonstrates the commitment and emphasis this restaurant places on the role of local, niche-suppliers’ play in the Wildwood’s success...
- Leaves of Romaine
- Salad of Local Seasonal Greens
- Fig and Walnut Bruschetta
- Marinated Local Gypsy Peppers
- Shaved Baby Fennel and Celery
- Kitchen Garden Heirloom Tomatoes
- Salad of Super Sweet Jubilee Corn
- Blackberry Marinated Beets
- Sauvie Island Organic Corn Soup
No doubt the ingredients for these dishes were all delivered in a small delivery truck by the person who grew them. Next week, another local grower will call to check-in as his crop of pears or tomatoes nears harvest, so that Cory and his staff can begin to plan a new menu to showcase this next class of graduating crops. The month of October is the culmination of a summer of hard work in the Northwest; the fields and orchards, tended all summer, are now ready with the harvest moon.
In the summer of 2000, Cory Schreiber’s first cookbook, Wildwood: Cooking from the Source in the Pacific Northwest, was published by Ten Speed Press. With its lavish food and landscape photography, inspired recipes, and passionate personal narrative, Wildwood presents the dishes that have earned Cory national acclaim, and offers a window into the source of his creativity.
The cookbook features recipes for favorite Northwest ingredients such as Pacific coast salmon, earthy wild mushrooms, and sweet local berries.
- Cory Schreiber opened the Wildwood Restaurant & Bar (Portland, Oregon) in 1984
- He started his restaurant career at the family’s seafood eatery – a direct descendant of the family’s oyster business
- Menus change weekly based on the availability of fresh ingredients supplied by local farmers