Season 12 contestant Gregory Gourdet took the 2nd place spot in fiercely competitive Top Chef but he won a first place spot in millions of viewer’s hearts with his open and candid on screen presence. This New York native shared his struggles with substance abuse and the resulting passion for health through fitness and super clean cooking. Which makes Gregory a perfect pair with paleo nomster, Michelle Tam, for a cooking session at the upcoming Paleo f(x). I chatted with Gregory about life after Top Chef, his take on Austin, coming out and more…
LY: You have stated that getting sober was the hardest thing you had ever done…until you competed in Top Chef. Where did coming out fall on that spectrum?
GG: Coming out for me was this seamless transition. I came out to my parents pretty late but I think they always knew. In high school, I dated women but was bisexual in college. I have stuck with the same sex now for a few years. Ok (laughing) quite some time actually! Growing up in New York City, anything goes. In college during the ’90’s, everyone was into designer drugs and I went to a super small college in Montana with not a lot of rules so it was open and welcoming.
LY: You and Nom Nom Paleo founder Michelle Tam will be leading a cooking demo on Friday aptly titled, “Umami: Applying the Art and Science of the Fifth Taste.” How did that collaboration come about?
GG: I have a love of paleo which is not very strict as I cook so many different things. About six years ago when I got sober, I started experimenting with the paleo diet and working out. The culmination was training for a marathon completely paleo and that worked very well. When I did reintroduce gluten or dairy, I got completely bloated. (laughing) At my friend’s wedding in L.A., I was on the floor so I have eliminated them from my diet completely. And Michelle has such a fun style and has such a great blog. When her first book came out, we did an event here in Portland and just really bonded through that.
LY: Will this be your first trip to Austin?
GG: No, not at all! I am really good friends with Ned Elliot from Foreign + Domestic and I pretty much grew up with the founders of Criquet Shirts. I’ve known Billy and Hobs since high school! I don’t have any specific “go-to” places. Just looking forward to some good barbecue and always open to some recommendations.
LY: As an avid runner, do you have any favorite trails you like to run in Austin.
GG: Oh, I have actually never gone running in Austin! (laughing) Sometimes I go on vacation/work trips and just eat a lot (laughing harder) and don’t run!
LY: Forbes describes your food as “elegant & balanced.” What words would you use to describe your food?
GG: I focus on Asian flavors drawing inspiration from all Asian cultures. There is definitely a locality and sensibility to it as well as a health focus. My food is very clean, very dynamic with different flavors and textures using tons of herbs, high acid, lots of chilis, complex spice mixes, healthy fats. I try to treat the ingredient as carefully as possible which often times means manipulating it as much as possible even if it is a “perfect” ingredient.
LY: I noticed your Twitter handle is @GG30000. What is the significance of the 30,000?
GG: My boss and mentor, Gregory Branin’s email has a 4,000 in it. And then there is (singer) Andre 3000. So I came up with a number that nobody could catch up with! (laughing)
LY: What are your plans after the Paleo f(x) conference in Austin?
GG: I will be flying out to Tokyo to support travel to my hometown of Portland. We will be doing a Portland Pop-up, cooking demo with local ingredients, VIP lunch and many more.
LY: Do you think you will get any flashbacks with the running through the local markets and then having to cook the dish using the local ingredients?
GG: Well, last year we had to cook in a blizzard! (laughs) So, I am pretty sure after last year and surviving Top Chef, I might be ok!
LY: And after Tokyo? What is on your horizon?
GG: Just recovering from an experience like Top Chef which really consumed the most of last year. It felt so good to come home to Portland, dive into the restaurant (Departure) and refocus some things. We have had some great weather which brings a great business surge on our two outdoor patios. As for travel, I make frequent trips to Asia. What I learned from Top Chef is that there is still so much about food that I don’t know. One of the greatest things I gained from the experience is the desire to see what is out there and that involves being able to travel more. I am really grateful for the opportunity to learn from different cultures, eat different foods and learn from different people.
LY: So we get to swing by Departure this summer to escape the heat and see the influence on your menu?
GG: Absolutely! We will have both decks in full swing. It is pretty amazing during the summer!
Be sure to catch the Umami demo with Michelle and Gregory on Friday, April 24 at 10:30a at the 2015 Paleo f(x).
Visit Departure Portland – departureportland.com