2010 Sagebrush Classic

If you haven’t already bought your tickets for the 2010 Sagebrush Classic Feast, Saturday night (July 17) at the Broken Top Club, I’ll give you three good reasons: Corey Schreiber, Vitaly Paley and Scott Neuman.

The annual foodie festival, presented by the Deschutes Brewing Company in support of the Deschutes Children’s Foundation and other local charities, is now in its 22nd year. Chefs from around the Northwest, the country and across the oceans converge on Bend for the event, which has gained renown for its food-and-beer pairings and for its wholehearted welcome to visiting chefs.

Of the 23 chefs who will be cooking at this year’s event, three are from Portland — and with apologies to the other score of culinary wizards attending, the Oregonians may be the best of the bunch.

Schreiber comes from a long line of Portland restaurateurs, but his culinary fame is his own. When he opened Wildwood in 1994, the farm-to-table cuisine was strictly cutting edge. In 1998, he became the first Portlander to win the coveted James Beard award as the Northwest’s best chef. Early this year he dove into a new venture, launching the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Portland.

Paley opened his northwest Portland restaurant, Paley’s Place, just one block from Wildwood in 1995. His path was as international as Schreiber’s was local. Trained as a classical pianist at the Juilliard School of Music after emigrating from Belarus (then part of the Soviet Union) to New York at the age of 13, he ultimately found his calling in the kitchen. He won a Northwest Beard Award in 2005.

Neuman has cooked at Oba!, a Caribbean-influenced restaurant in the Pearl District, since 1997, and he has been executive chef since 2005. He’s a Texas native who has traveled extensively in Latin America, and now applies what he learned as a chef in Mexico. “I take the indigenous teachings and translate them to the Portland area,” he said. “I’m convinced there is no better place to have a restaurant than Oregon.”

Sundstrom at Lark

Of the other attendees, one of them is an old friend. Johnathan Sundstrom, owner and executive chef of Lark (in Seattle’s First Hill district), gave my son his first kitchen job about 10 years ago. (Erik was grateful for the opportunity, although he has since pursued a career in music.) Named in 2000 one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “best new chefs” in America, Sundstrom opened Lark in late 2003.

Who else is in town?  Some names you may recognize from previous Sagebrush events. There’s Roberto Donna of Galileo in Washington, D.C.; Tom Fleming of the Preferred Restaurant Group in Dallas; Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa, Calif.; Mark Kiffin of The Compound in Santa Fe, N.M.; Jackie Lau of Roy’s in Honolulu; Michael Smith of the eponymously named restaurant in Kansas City; and Greg and Mary Sonnier of Gabrielle in New Orleans.

Also returning are John Finger and Terry Sawyer of Hog Island Oysters in San Francisco; Bill Marinelli of Marinelli Shellfish, now a resident of Bangkok; Nigel Viet of the Intercontinental Asia Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City; and Anna Truong (attending with Maria Diem) of the Sheraton Saigon Hotel.

Newcomers to the Sagebrush are Charles Phan of The Slanted Door in San Francisco; Suvir Saran of Devi and American Masala in New York; and  Jean Pierre LeLievre of Le Henri IV in Paris.

Matt Neltner of the host Deschutes Brewery will join Gavin McMichael, of The Blacksmith and the soon-to-open Bourbon Street Sea and Soul Food, in offering desserts.

Individual event tickets are priced at $195. As many as 1,000 attendees will enjoy small plates from all the great chefs until food runs out. Tickets also include beer and/or wine, dancing to show bands Island Breeze and Oncore!, and an extensive silent auction. Call 800-601-8123 or surf to www.sagebrush.org for more details.

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