TUSK IS THE FIRST NEW RESTAURANT FROM SUBMARINE HOSPITALITY, THE TEAM BEHIND PORTLAND'S AVA GENE'S—PARTNERS JOSHUA MCFADDEN AND LUKE DIRKS. THE BUSTLING, BRIGHT, WHITE DINING ROOM IS MODERN AND FEMININE, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE DINING ROOM’S STATEMENT PIECE: A GIANT PORTRAIT OF KEITH RICHARDS FLOATING IN A SWIMMING POOL ABOVE THE BAR. THAT PLAYFUL SPIRIT RUNS THROUGH THE MENUS AND THE FEEL OF THE SPACE. TUSK'S VEGETABLE-DRIVEN MIDDLE EASTERN MENU IS THE CREATION OF EXECUTIVE CHEF/PARTNER SAM SMITH.
ALL VEGETABLES AND MOST FLOURS AND GRAINS ARE SOURCED DIRECTLY FROM LOCAL FARMS SMITH HAS BUILT CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS WITH OVER THE YEARS, AND THE DISHES ARE MEANT TO BE SHARED IN A CONVIVIAL DINING ATMOSPHERE. THE DESSERT PROGRAM, HELMED BY FORMER LE PIGEON PASTRY WIZ NORA ANTENE, ALONG WITH THE COCKTAIL MENU BY TONY CONTRERAS, ARE EQUALLY AS SEASONAL.
Sam Smith was born in the birthplace of modern, American farm-to-table cooking: Berkeley, CA. After growing up within this unique supply chain connecting area farms to urban restaurants, Sam received a degree in English Literature from Villanova University. Following his graduation, he attended culinary school at The Restaurant School, then honed his skills and developed his palate in a multitude of restaurants around Philadelphia. Sam’s culinary talent was on full display for the first time when he became the opening Sous Chef at Zahav, which immediately established itself as the country’s preeminent modern-Israeli restaurant. Sam moved to Portland in 2012, where he joined Joshua McFadden to open Ava Gene’s as the restaurant’s Chef de Cuisine. For years, Sam has dreamed of combining his passion for local farming and produce with a vision for modern Middle Eastern food in Portland. Tusk is the realization of that dream.
Having grown up in the Midwest, Joshua came to the Pacific Northwest to attend Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. Since then, he’s cooked in some of the top kitchens in San Francisco (Lark Creek Inn, Roxanne’s), Chicago (North Pond), and New York (Franny’s, Momofuku, Blue Hill and Lupa.) He also spent time in Rome working at the American Academy in Rome, an Alice Waters project. He was awarded two stars by the New York Times while serving as Chef de Cuisine at Franny’s in Brooklyn. Wanting to get closer to his artistic medium, Joshua spent two years farming and cooking in coastal Maine, running Four Season Farm. It allowed him to think about food in a whole new way, sparking a deeper passion for—and knowledge of—vegetables. Joshua’s belief that food should be simple, honest, and driven by local ingredients has found its natural home in the Pacific Northwest at Ava Gene’s, where he is Executive Chef/Partner. In the summer of 2016, he and Luke Dirks formed Submarine Hospitality, which acquired ownership of Ava Gene’s and just before opening Tusk. Joshua is also the consulting chef at The Suttle Lodge & Boathouse. His cookbook of 225 vegetable-focused recipes will be published in March of 2017 by Artisan Books.
A true Cascadian, Luke was born in British Columbia, Canada but grew up in Oregon and Washington. After completing his degree in English Literature at Seattle Pacific University, Luke began a career in hospitality that continues to this day. In 2007, he left the restaurant world to join Portland’s own Stumptown Coffee Roasters as they expanded their presence into Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest. Luke’s role as Regional Sales Director took him to Brooklyn, New York in 2009, where he guided Stumptown’s wholesale expansion on the East Coast for the next two years. In 2011, Luke got back to what he does best: managing restaurants. Luke joined forces with Gabriel Stulman’s Happy Cooking Hospitality and soon took on the role of Managing Partner for this budding Manhattan-based restaurant group. During Luke’s tenure, the group added Perla, Chez Sardine, and Montmartre to the already impressive roster of Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey’s Grocery, and Fedora. After six years in New York, Luke is back in Portland for good. In summer of 2016, he and Joshua McFadden formed Submarine Hospitality, which acquired ownership of Ava Gene’s restaurant just before opening Tusk.
Wesley began cooking professionally in Philadelphia under Michael Solomonov at Marigold Kitchen and then Zahav, where he was the lead Baker and Pastry Chef. This period not only started a love affair with Middle Eastern food, it also sparked a close working relationship with Sam Smith. Wesley then went on to hone his culinary skills at the legendary Le Bec Fin as Poissonier. He was drawn to Portland because of a desire to work more closely with farmers and let ingredients drive his cooking. He soon joined the team at Castagna, which provided an opportunity to learn more about vegetable cookery from Chef Justin Woodward. Wesley then took over as Chef of Cafe, inflecting the menu with his beloved Middle Eastern flavors. He left Cafe Castagna to team up again with Sam Smith and open Tusk, which he feels is the culmination of all of his culinary experience to date.
Nora Antene grew up in large food-loving family in Chicago. She graduated with a B.A. in French at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and studied literature in Paris at L’Institut Catholique. Toward the end of her college years, however, Nora realized she was spending more time cooking than studying. She returned to Chicago to attend a short culinary program at Kendall College, followed by position as pastry assistant at MK restaurant in Chicago. She moved to Portland in 2010 just as chef Gabriel Rucker opened Little Bird Bistro, where she was hired as Pastry Chef Lauren Fortgang’s assistant and was later promoted to Pastry Chef herself. In 2013, Nora moved across the river to become the Pastry Chef at Le Pigeon. She has became known for her creativity and exquisite plating, as well as her combination of nostalgic sweets (like whoopie pies and egg creams) with exotic flavors and ingredients (such as sunchokes, rosewater and green tea). Nora Antene was named an Eater “Young Gun” in the class of 2014 and spotlighted in the Wall Street Journal, Bake Magazine, Portland Monthly and the Oregonian.
Some of Katie’s fondest memories stem from food. Growing up she picked fresh dill with her grandmother for her famous pickles and helped her grandfather make homemade sausage. This bond with food led her to her first restaurant job as a teenager. Katie took a break from the restaurant world to pursue her degree in Environmental Science. Upon graduation, she moved back from New York and worked as a fire ecologist on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon before moving to Portland. She quickly found her niche in the dynamic restaurant scene and realized she could combine her passion for wine, science, and food. She has worked with diverse menus and wine portfolios at The Heathman Restaurant, Olympia Provisions, and Toro Bravo. Katie is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine and Spirit Education Trust and is excited to bring her knowledge and passions to Tusk.
Heather grew up in Northern Wisconsin eating wild game and foraged mushrooms. Her first job was in a restaurant, and she went on to earn a degree in Social Work. While WWOOFing on a farm in France, she became inspired by food and gardening. The food scene in San Francisco deepened this inspiration, as did working at Tartine.
Heather moved to Portland with her husband to raise chickens, steward bees, garden, and build cob ovens. After working at Lovely's 50/50, Sweedeedee, and Clyde Common, she joined the management team at Tusk. She remains a student of permaculture and sustainable practices, and now owns a small plot of land on which she and her husband are building a homestead.