Although they are most often seen together, don’t make the mistake of thinking that Steven Draheim, 39, and Joel Cordes, 32, are inseparable.
In fact, the owners of two of Bend’s most popular mobile kitchens are highly competitive. “We push each other,” Steven acknowledges.
Draheim owns Soupçon; Cordes is El Sancho. Every lunch hour, Monday through Friday, they stand side-by-side outside The Blacksmith restaurant in downtown Bend.
Both are Bend natives. Steven is a 1990 grad of Bend High School. Joel graduated from Mountain View in 1997. Both are formally trained chefs. But they followed very different paths.
Steven was a prep and junior-college athlete who aspired to become a French teacher. When he fell in love and became a father, he set his sights on a more lucrative profession. “The competitiveness and physical demands drew me into cooking,” he recalls.
He studied at the Western Culinary Institute, then worked under chefs Cory Schreiber at Wildwood in Portland and Janos Wilder at Janos in Tucson, Ariz. He returned to Central Oregon as executive chef of the Kokanee Café in Camp Sherman between 2003 and 2006.
In 2008, Steven opened Soupçon (French for “tiny amount” or “subtle hint”) as a soup cart. (See www.soupconbend.com.) He initially offered a choice of three gourmet soups, at least one of them purely vegetarian, along with grilled bread-and-cheese dumplings known as knodels. In three years, the menu has evolved to also include daily salads and sandwiches. “I’ve been having fun with food,” the chef says.
Joel attended culinary school in Vail, Colo., after high school. Between subsequent jobs as a cook in Colorado and Seattle, he went on self-described “food quests” in Mexico and southern Africa, studying cuisine as he traveled. Upon returning to Bend in 2007, he went to work at The Blacksmith, where he was a line cook there until he launched El Sancho (see www.wix.com/thesancho/elsancho) in February 2010.
“I wanted to follow my own style,” he says. His love of Southwestern cuisine helped him win the crowd-favorite “Best Booth” award at the Arizona Taco Festival in Tucson in October 2011. Now, Joel says, he finds patrons seeking him out.
“The trick is dividing time between preparation and sales,” he says. “Steven and I both work about 60 hours a week, and only 15 hours of that is at the cart.”
“We both have our hard-core fans,” says Steven, “but together, we can offer a bigger menu with shorter lines per cart. We have a nice synergy.”
Draheim and Cordes are among two dozen Central Oregon chefs with recipes features in “Sage in the Kitchen,” a new benefit cookbook published to benefit the Feed the Hungry program of Bend’s Community Center. Priced at $22.95, the books may be purchased at the BCC or online at http://www.bendscommunitycenter.org/sage