Chef Althea Grey Potter
What attracted you to this field?
I have always loved food. When I was a little kid, even before I could walk, I would crawl behind my mom when she worked in her vegetable garden and eat ripe cherry tomatoes and snap peas. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t cook, it has been a huge part of my life from the very beginning. I love the creative aspect of cooking, but I also love nourishing people.
What do you think other people should know about what you do?
I think people should know that I didn’t set out to be a chef. I always thought I would be in academics or politics. Yet, I could not resist my desire to cook. It is intrinsic to my very being. The work is hard, the hours are grueling, the stress unbearable at times. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Nothing makes me happier than cooking and feeding people.
What do you think your food says about you?
I think the food I create is a pure expression of who I am. It encapsulates all of my experiences : my upbringing, my travels, the people I have known and cooked with. Because of this, my cuisine in constantly evolving.
What projects are you particularly proud of?
Two years ago, the owners of the business that I work for and I embarked on a venture to change our sleepy wine bar into a full fledged restaurant. It was a hard road, but ultimately very successful. Being recognized for my work, especially in a city like Portland with so many excellent restaurants, has been very powerful.
What makes you happiest and most effective when working with others?
For me, I think it’s really important to bring a positive energy into the kitchen. Cooking should be fun! I take the food seriously, but never myself.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired most by the seasons and the changing of them. Cooking seasonally feels so much more natural to me, everything feels fleeting so I try to make the best of every fruit or vegetable before it is gone again until the next year.
How can the daily grind effect your creativity? If, so how do you balance it out?
Sometimes being a chef can be exhausting. The thing with creativity is the it can’t be forced. I feel my best creative flow if I take the time to step out of the kitchen to spend time with friends. The best place for me is a hike in a beautiful forest.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
This biggest challenge I have faced is my own self-doubt. To get other people to believe in what you are doing, you have to believe it yourself first. I used to worry that people would discover that I was a fraud because I took an unusual path to becoming a chef. For a long time, I tried to replicate the work of other chefs but it wasn’t until I started cooking from the heart that I found success.
How has this changed you?
I finally realized that I should be proud of taking an unusual path to where I am now, and that the path will continue as long as I don’t get in my own way.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
I am inspired by my mom, who is a ceramic artist. She is incredibly talented but remains very humble.
If you could eat anything in the world, what would it be and why?
To me, the most delicious thing in the world is a sungold cherry tomato picked directly from the vine that is warm from the summer sun. The tomato stem and leaf have a wonderful aroma that completes this experience. I think it must be because this is one of my earliest food memories.