Early in his career, Red Star Tavern Executive Chef Kyle Rourke wrote down on a 3x5 card that he was going to be an executive chef. That’s some serious vision. But then again, when you look at the spirited spins on everything from comfort food classics to Asian street fare you find on the Red Star Tavern menu, you know he’s a chef with big ideas.
In a way, Chef Kyle was always destined to be making magic in the kitchen. His grandfather had a degree in hospitality from Cornell, and young Kyle, who was born and raised just outside Philadelphia, started working in restaurants as a teenager. Similar to classic French training, he then worked his way up the ranks: dishwasher, prep cook, line cook and ultimately co-owning a successful pizzeria. Taking a page out of the classic American “Go West” success playbook, he headed to San Diego before making a move for the foodie paradise of Portland. How fortunate for us.
Ever since, he has been wowing Portland’s collective palate at Red Star with re-imagined classics, surprising flavors and eclectic ingredients sourced whenever possible from local organic and sustainable farmers, fisherman, artisans and producers. That’s because Chef’s vision all starts with local goodness like farm-raised pork and five types of organic goat milk cheese he sources from near Salem. These are people he visits regularly to find the best, meaning these aren’t just suppliers, they’re personal connections.
The result is a style that’s as difficult to put in a narrow category as it is to resist putting a fork in to savor. Think dry-aged ribeye with leek jam and housemade Worcestershire. Or Northwest steamed mussels dressed with IPA and aji amarillo chiles. (We know, we get hungry just reading this too).
The big picture is Chef Kyle looks forward to nothing more than preparing a stellar Portland meal for guests like you during your next visit. “I just love seeing people get blown away by the food, the ingredients, the staff. That really makes my day."
For Bartender Brandon Lockman, there is one ingredient that has to be in every cocktail: craft. With that focus, he raises the bar at Red Star Tavern with a passion for fresh ingredients, premium spirits and creative spins on time-tested classics to create a notoriously delicious menu. It all comes naturally to Brandon who was born into the restaurant business. As a child, he and his brother would pitch in to help at the family’s restaurant on the Oregon coast. Fast forward to 2004, and he is working behind the bar at Red Star Tavern. A few years later, some world travels and an encounter with a cocktail guru refine his approach and he goes from slinging cocktails to mixing craft masterpieces. “I adopted this new style of mastering old techniques, using only fresh juices, housemade ingredients and really thinking about balance.” Today, Brandon moves easily between the bar and Red Star’s kitchen, selecting choice ingredients like garden fresh fruits and herbs including Meyer lemons, basil, rosemary and thyme sourced from Chef Kyle’s top producers.
Brandon’s recipe for perfect cocktails also includes his made-from-scratch syrups and tinctures like his tantalizing Serrano pepper and honey syrup. The results are oh-yeah flavor notes that give cocktails a positively Portland upgrade. When it comes to spirits, American whiskey is a house favorite Brandon loves to share in unexpected ways, like the Port Old Fashioned featuring Bulleit Bourbon, 10 year old tawny Port, Angostura bitters and maple syrup. Whatever you choose here, it’s evident that Brandon is the creative spirit behind an imaginative cocktail program that is shaking things up in Portland.