Growing up in the suburbs of New York City in a large Italian family, Chris Diminno learned the importance of food pretty quickly. By 15 he had grabbed an internship at La Madeleine, then moved on to train at The Culinary Institute of America and added the Telepan Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Blue Hill at Stone Barns to his resume. With honed skills and a growing love of farm-to-table philosophy, Diminno moved to Portland — where ever since he’s been a leading chef at popular Euro-style gastropub Clyde Common located inside the Ace Hotel. We caught up with Diminno on the heels of the Levi’s Mobile Bike Shop he’s helping to promote (busy guy) and chatted about Twinkies, bicycles and people who Instagram their food.
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Q. What’s one thing every man should know?
A. How to cope with what life throws at you. Thats the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my time cooking. Flexibility is key.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A. Taking over the kitchen at Clyde Common. When I first started working there I thought it would be easy. It turned out to be one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Growing up in kitchens, I was always told that “cooking was the easy part”. I had no idea how right those people were!
Q. What are you working on right now?
A. Menus to 12 separate special dinners that are happening in the next 4 weeks, one of which is a tasting of Water Buffalo. What does one do with Water Buffalo liver, anyway?
I’m working on menus to 12 separate special dinners, one of which is a tasting of Water Buffalo. What does one do with Water Buffalo liver, anyway?
Q. Name one thing you can’t live without.
A. My Cielo Sportif racer. It is my disconnect — sweet eye candy that provides hours of fun.
Q: Who or what influences you?
A: My cooks, because they make me want to be better every day. That’s actually true.
Q. What are you reading right now?
A. These questions.
Q. Name one thing no one knows about you.
A. Honestly? I love the Muppets. There, I said it.
Q. It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What’ll it be?
A. A burger — swiss, bacon, onions, and mushrooms with a tennis ball of a patty, all squished in a soft bun — from the Blazer Pub in NY and a bottle of Brooklyn 1. And since it’s my last, I’d have two 1s.
Q. If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self something, what would you say?
A. Stop eating that twinkie. And stop stressing so much. Things are gonna get pretty cool.
Q. What brought you to Portland?
A. A change of scenery. I was born and raised in New York, and I realized it was time to go out and experience something new. The budding restaurant scene and the amazing cycling community here made it an ideal spot to settle.
Q. Why is the “farm-to-table” movement so big right now?
A. Because it needs to be. People are becoming aware of what they’re eating and are realizing that the current farming model in this country doesn’t work. My prediction: there will be huge demand for the highest-quality produce in the next five years, regardless of cost. Farmers might finally be able to make a living. I hope I’m right. I think small farming has a real chance. There are more young people getting into farming than ever before, and it’s awesome to see.
Q. How do you feel about people Instagramming their food?
A. I love Instagram. It allows me to see what my peers are doing, stay current, and view my food from a guest’s perspective. It’s invaluable as a method of self critique.
Q. If you had to close the restaurant and start an unrelated food truck what would it be/what would you serve?
A. Chicharrones. Or All Terrine All the Time. Or ice cream. Soft serve ice cream. Sorry, what was the question?
The Levi’s mobile bike shop is a tour promoting the two-wheeled commuter movement and showcasing the brand’s Commuter collection, jeans that have a double-layered seat and back pocket, a waistband to hold a U-lock and reflective 3M tape on the interior cuffs. The line also has a water-resistant stretch and antimicrobial fabric — which, by the way, can also be found on the Levi’s commuter parka.